Sao Paulo (AFP) -
Brazilian authorities said Thursday evening that the death toll from floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains in the country's southeast had risen to at least 50, with emergency workers continuing to dig through the wreckage.
'The more time passes, the less likely it is to find survivors. But we always work with that in mind. There can always be air pockets under the rubble,' emergency official Villas Boas told news site G1.
According to the Sao Paulo state government, dozens of people are still missing after the disaster.
Last weekend's record storms dumped more than an entire February's worth of rain in 24 hours on the picturesque beach resort town of Sao Sebastiao and the surrounding region, triggering violent floods and landslides that tore through precariously built hillside communities.
Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas admitted the official weather alert system had failed to avoid the tragedy.
'We sent 2.6 million alerts by text message, but as we saw, that wasn't effective,' he said.
'Next rainy season, there will be sirens to warn people in high-risk areas.'
An estimated 9.5 million of Brazil's 215 million people live in areas at high risk of flooding or landslides -- mainly poor favela neighborhoods.
The South American country has been hit by a series of deadly weather disasters in recent years, which experts say are likely being made worse by climate change.