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Brazil floods ease, many head home

Thousands of Brazilians returned home following devastating floods but water kept on rising in some places andhelicopters, trucks and boats were used to deliver aid to victims.
Brazil Floods
The flooded town of Araioses in Brazil is seen Tuesday. Andre Penner / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thousands of Brazilians were returning home following devastating floods but water kept on rising in some places and civil defense officials used helicopters, trucks and boats to deliver aid to victims in isolated communities.

The death toll declined from 42 to 39 because some deaths were mistakenly classified as flood-related, said officials in the sprawling jungle state of Amazonas.

The number of homeless decreased Tuesday from 300,000 to 267,000 as residents headed home in some of the 11 states affected by the floods — an area three times the size of Alaska. But waters were still rising in some places and authorities warned that the situation remained a threat because the weather forecast calls for more downpours.

A major aid effort was still under way, with civil defense officials delivering food and drinking water to isolated communities surrounded by muddy water and newly formed lakes.

Crowds of flood victims gathered around helicopters dropping off aid in the hard-hit state of Maranhao, and Globo TV showed images of people living on the roofs of homes inundated with water because they feared looters would strike if they headed to shelters.

Rain was still falling in some parts of the zone stretching from the Amazon to normally dry northeastern Brazil, which has experienced its worst flooding in at least two decades.

Meteorologists have blamed the rainfall that led to the floods on an Atlantic Ocean weather system that usually moves on in March but didn't budge this year.

Water was still rising Tuesday in sprawling Amazonas state, and low-lying parts of the jungle city of Manaus were flooding as the mighty Rio Negro river that feeds the Amazon approached a record set in 1953, said Jose Melo, in charge of the state's flood emergency efforts.

Manaus, population 1.7 million, is a major industrial center and a jumping-off point for rain forest tours.

Authorities were mounting an effort to clean filthy streams in the city and make sure they were free of dead animals that could spread disease.

During the city's 1953 flood, drowned cattle posed the biggest health threat to city residents, Melo said.