Brazil flood deaths top 800 with 400 still missing

Farm near Nova Friburgo on 21 January, 2011 Buildings were swept away by the force of water and mud coming down hillsides

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Officials in Brazil say more than 800 people are now known to have died in floods and landslides in the south-east of the country this month.

More than 400 people are still missing after torrential rain caused whole hillsides to collapse.

The Brazilian government has said it will set up an early warning system to alert communities of impending danger.

The flooding is considered the worst natural disaster Brazil has ever experienced.

According to figures compiled by the newspaper O Globo, about third of all victims were children and adolescents.

The youngest fatality was a five-day-old baby buried in a mudslide in Nova Friburgo, the worst affected town with 324 dead.

Continuing danger

The number of missing has been declining as forensic experts identify more bodies, but rescue workers fear the full extent of the disaster is not yet known, with some remote communities still only reachable by helicopter.

Dog at a cemetery in Teresopolis Funeral workers said some dogs were guarding their owners' graves for days

Emergency workers say their priority is to make sure no new deaths occur.

They are warning of the risks of contaminated water.

Three people are known to have contracted leptospirosis, an infectious bacterial disease, which is caused by exposure to water contaminated with rats' urine.

In Teresopolis, doctors have been administering thousands of tetanus vaccines.

In Sao Jose do Vale, workers were erecting more than a hundred tents sent from the UK to house those whose homes were swept away or flooded.

Volunteers in Rio de Janeiro held an adoption fair in the hope of re-homing some of the 5,000 animals left without owners as a result of the disaster.

The government has allocated $240m (£150m) in emergency reconstruction money for the area.

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