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Brazil rains leave tens of thousands homeless
Updated: 2004-02-04 13:43

Mudslides and floods have forced more than 40,000 Brazilians to leave their homes and killed 84 since heavy rains began in late December, civil defense authorities said on Tuesday.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to visit areas of Brazil's usually parched northeast on Wednesday where entire communities have been submerged by rains which have caused 18 deaths nationwide since Friday.

Wealthy Sao Paulo state has also been hit hard, 29 people killed by the weather and 16 bridges destroyed. Motorists have been swept away after highways turned into rivers.

Brazil depends on summer rains to grow coffee, oranges and sugar but this year's rainfall has been unusually high due to cold fronts that swept into the country and failed to budge.

Torrential rains have hammered the entire coastal and central-west regions of Brazil and turned areas of the parched Northeast into lakes.

Rains are expected to continue. The government is scrambling to rescue people trapped in towns that have become islands, house people in schools and shelters and tend to dozens of injured.

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