updated 12/2/2008 6:36:53 PM ET 2008-12-02T23:36:53

Brazil is committed to quickly repairing key ports damaged in massive floods in order to recoup millions of dollars in daily losses to the economy, a government official said Tuesday.

The floods, which have claimed at least 116 lives in the southern Santa Catarina region, severely damaged the major Itajai port, which has lost more than $400 million in revenue since the flooding began last month, said Brazilian ports minister Pedro Brito. He said those losses grow by $35 million a day. Ships have been forced to dock in ports hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in neighboring states.

The flooding also severely damaged the area's other ports and washed goods on the docks out to sea.

Brito said the government thus far has freed up $152 million to begin immediate repairs on the Itajai port — the biggest in the area and key to Brazil's massive beef-exporting industry.

The storms also exacted a high human toll: Rescue workers were searching for 31 people still missing following massive landslides, and officials estimate the death toll could rise to as much as 150.

About 80,000 people were forced from their homes by the storms, which dumped more water on the region during the weekend of Nov. 22-23 than it normally gets in months. Another 8,000 people were displaced in neighboring Rio de Janeiro state.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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