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Brazilians flee flooding, stay in cow pens

Brazilians huddled in cow pens converted into emergency shelters Friday, as swollen rivers continue to rise and northern Brazil's worst floods in decades boosted the number of homeless to nearly 300,000. The death toll rose to 39, and coffins started popping out of the soaked earth. Local health officials acknowledged sanitary conditions were deplorable and could lead to outbreaks of disease, but those staying in the stables said they worried conditions could be worse elsewhere if they are forced to go. None thought about returning home anytime soon as UNUSUALLY HEAVY RAINS continued Friday, extending two months of rainfall across 10 of Brazil's 26 states. Three times the size of Alaska, the affected area stretches from the normally wet rainforest to coastal states known for lengthy droughts. Meteorologists blame the heavy rain on an Atlantic Ocean weather system that typically moves on by April - and they forecast weeks more of the same. Rivers still were rising in the hardest-hit state of Maranhao. The surging torrents wrecked bridges and made it too dangerous for relief workers to take boats onto some waterways. Mudslides were stranding trucks, preventing them from delivering food and supplies to places cut off from civilization. "Our houses are falling down, and on my street there are houses that were completely destroyed because the river's flow was so strong." The flooding in northern Brazil is THE WORST IN 20 YEARS, and experts have warned that by June river levels, including the Amazon, could hit records not seen since 1953

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