SAO PAULO – The mayor of a mudslide-devastated city urged a precautionary shutdown of Brazil's only nuclear power plants on Sunday due to blocked highways while the discovery of more bodies raised the region's storm-caused death toll to 73.
Angra dos Reis Mayor Tuca Jordao said that while the nuclear power plants are not damaged or threatened, mudslides that that have killed at least 42 people in his city alone have disrupted escape routes needed to cope with any emergency.
"We don't want any risk," said Jordao, whose municipality has about 120,000 people. "We want to avoid a future problem."
There was no immediate response from senior authorities, but officials of Brazil's state-run nuclear energy company Eletronuclear said a temporary closure of the plants would not seriously hurt the country's power supply, according to Globo TV.
Rescuers using rescue dogs, heavy machinery, boats and helicopters took advantage of improved weather on Sunday to hunt for any survivors from the Angra dos Reis slides — one in the Carioca slum that killed 14 people and another on Ilha Grande island, where at least 28 died when a hillside collapsed on a vacation resort and neighboring houses — a New Year's Day disaster that stunned the country.
Lux-coely Amorim Mendes, 57, told Globo TV's G1 Web site that she had to identify the body of her 8-year-old granddaughter at the morgue, and found the child wearing the dress Mendes had given her for the holiday.
"I couldn't believe that was actually happening to us," she said.
Survivor Luciana Maximo de Castro told Globo TV that she was among friends invited to the hotel by the lodge owner's daughter, who died in the slide.
"There was a loud noise. I didn't know if it was a dream or if it was true," de Castro said. "Mud covered me, kept me from breathing."
G1 reported that one family lost 9- and 12-year-old daughters. Seventeen people from the city of Aruja were staying in a nearby house, it said, and only four survived. At least five people who were staying on the island are still missing.
Jordao said about 20 areas in Angra dos Reis will still at risk of mudslides and he said some people were being evacuated. Parts of the city have been without power for days.
The dual slides were triggered by 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain that had drenched the region since Wednesday, authorities said.
Overall, authorities said, 64 people died in slides or flooding in Rio de Janeiro state, three in Minas Gerais state and six in the Sao Paulo state city of Cunha.