Mudslides
Alexandre Carius  /  AP
Firefighters look for the remains of three missing people in Petropolis, Brazil, on Thursday.
updated 1/6/2007 5:49:38 PM ET 2007-01-06T22:49:38

Firefighters recovered the body of a woman whose home was engulfed in a mudslide and her husband died from injuries Saturday, as the death toll from days of heavy rains in southeast Brazil reached 31.

Floods and mudslides have driven thousands of people from their homes over the past week, and more rains were forecast for the weekend.

Firefighters retrieved the body of a 62-year-old woman beneath mud that engulfed her hillside home in the city of Novo Friburgo, some 95 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Her husband died of injuries in the hospital, raising the death toll in that city to 12, according to a Civil Defense spokeswoman. Twenty-six people have died in Rio de Janeiro state, about 310 miles northeast of Sao Paulo.

Authorities Saturday reported the deaths of two other people in mudslides in Sao Paulo state. On Friday, three people died when a bus skidded out of control, an accident authorities blamed on the heavy rains.

The mudslides and flash floods have forced more than 12,000 people to abandon their homes for shelter in churches, schools, gymnasiums and other public buildings, officials said.

Most of the victims were poor people who live in shantytowns built precariously on hillsides.

Mudslides are a chronic problem in Rio de Janeiro state during the summer rainy season. Clearing grass and shrubs from the hillsides to make way for shantytowns causes erosion, leaving the communities vulnerable to mudslides.

In recent years, the state government has attempted to remove people from the most dangerous hillsides, but people with no access to affordable housing continue to build crude brick houses on the steepest slopes.

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