Mudslides have killed at least 500 people in Brazil, and officials fear that the death toll could still rise.
Media reports have cited the International Disaster Database information, which suggests that it is the worst natural disaster in Brazil since flooding and mudslides killed 785 people in 1967. Slides are common in Latin America's largest nation, but continuous heavy rain in recent days has caused havoc in cities located in mountainous areas.
"I have friends still lost in all of this mud," Carlos Eurico, a resident of Campo Grande, told The Associated Press. "It's all gone. It's all over now. We're putting ourselves in the hands of God."
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), landslides develop when water rapidly accumulates on a sloping surface, and they can travel several miles, growing in size while picking up debris and mud. They also occur across the United States, FEMA states.
Individuals who wish to protect themselves from a landslide can take self-survival measures. FEMA suggests that residents do not build houses near steep slopes that are close to mountain edges. In addition, homeowners may consider getting a geological hazard assessment to see if flooding or slides have previously affected the area.
FEMA recommends that many debris-related deaths occur when people are sleeping, so individuals who live near a mudslide hazard zone should remain awake during heavy rain and listen to battery-powered radio or television programming for possible warnings.