Mudslides and flash floods triggered by torrential downpours have killed at least 27 people and driven thousands from their homes over the past five days in southeastern Brazil, officials said Friday.

Poor areas in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, about 310 miles northeast of Sao Paulo, were the worst hit, civil defense authorities said.

"Just about all of the 23 deaths registered in our state took place in the cities of Petropolis, Teresopolis, Nova Friburgo and Sumidoro," said a civil defense spokeswoman who, citing department policy, declined to be identified.

More than 12,000 people were forced to abandon their homes for temporary shelter in churches, schools, sport gymnasiums and other public buildings, she said.

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She said most of the victims were poor people killed in mudslides that buried their homes built precariously on the hillsides surrounding the four cities.

The latest deaths were registered early Friday in Sumidoro, where six people were buried alive under tons of mud.

Some of those killed were children asleep when the mudslides occurred.

With more heavy rains expected for the weekend, civil defense teams have been placed on alert in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo.