Floods and Landslides Kill Hundreds in Rio de Janeiro (State)

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains have killed at least 270 people in southern Brazil, and the death toll is expected to rise significantly.

Many families were buried as they slept in their mountain town homes near Rio de Janeiro after hillsides collapsed, Reuters reports. "There was no way of telling which house would fall. Rich and poor—everything was destroyed," said a survivor in the devastated town of Teresopolis. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has released hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency funds for the stricken areas.

Hillsides and river banks in the picturesque Serrana region north of Rio buckled under the equivalent of a month's rainfall in 24 hours, destroying houses and killing many people early Wednesday, rescue officials said.

Television images showed many houses buried in mud as desperate residents and rescue workers searched for survivors.

"There was no way of telling which house would fall. Rich and poor -- everything was destroyed," domestic worker Fernanda Carvalho was quoted as saying by the Globo network's website.