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Brazil flooding leaves at least 86 dead

  • Story Highlights
  • More than 54,000 have been left homeless, state news agency says
  • At least 86 dead, 30 missing in southern Brazil, reports say
  • Most of deaths and damage have been in Santa Catarina state
  • Flooding also has caused damage in Colombia, Panama
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- The death toll from flooding in southern Brazil continued to climb Wednesday, with officials reporting at least 86 dead, the state news agency said.

About 30 people are missing, the official news agency Agencia Brasil said, citing civil defense officials. Earlier reports had indicated as many as 100 people were dead.

In addition, more than 54,000 residents have been left homeless, and another 1.5 million have been affected by the heavy rains, the state news agency reported.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced he will release nearly 700 million reais ($350 million) on Wednesday, Agencia Brasil said.

About 50 federal police are being dispatched to Santa Catarina state, where most of the deaths and damage have occurred, Agencia Brasil said. The authorities will help look for victims and provide security for local businesses.

Military police reported that four grocery stores were looted this week in the Santa Catarina city of Itajai, the news agency said.

The rain-fueled flooding resulted in a declaration of public calamity in six municipalities -- Gaspar, Rio dos Cedros, Nova Trento, Camboriu, Benedito Novo and Pomerode, Agencia Brasil reported.

Another seven municipalities have declared states of emergency -- Balneário de Piçarras, Canelinha, Indaial, Penha, Paulo Lopes, Presidente Getúlio and Rancho Queimado, the news agency reported.

Eight communities are cut off from the rest of the nation and have no water and electricity, Civil Defense officials said. The flooding has blocked more than 20 roads, and emergency supplies of food, water and coats are being brought in by helicopter.

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao was scheduled to tour the affected areas Wednesday to meet with Santa Catarina Gov. Luiz Henrique da Silveira and announce emergency measures.

The governor has called the situation the worst catastrophe in the state's history.

Complicating matters, the flooding also ruptured a pipeline carrying gas between Brazil and Bolivia on Sunday night, interrupting the flow of gas in part of the country's southern region, Agencia Brasil said.

Heavy rains have brought flooding to many parts of Central and South America.

In Colombia, at least 34 people have died, and another eight are missing, officials said.

About 50,000 people suffered damage to their property in northwestern Colombia after the Cauca River overflowed following heavy rains.

The Cauca -- a tributary of the Magdalena River, the largest in Colombia -- broke through its levees Tuesday and flooded the town of Nechi, in the province of Antioquia, about 248 miles (400 kilometers) north of Bogota.

In Panama, rains have caused damage in the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui and Colon. The Panamanian Red Cross said in a release Tuesday it is offering aid to about 5,000 people.

Journalist Fabiana Frayssinet in Brazil and Fernando Ramos in Colombia contributed to this report.

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