Flooding kills 15, leaves thousands homeless in Brazil after weeks of rain

Flooding from torrential rains in Brazil's normally arid northeast has killed 15 people and driven about 50,000 from their homes, civil defense officials said Saturday. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed an executive order Friday night releasing 614 million reals (US$360 million) to help flood victims. The 15 victims drowned in the state of Paraiba, where the Paraiba River overflowed its banks and the walls of a medium-size dam cracked, the Civil Defense Department said. It had no further details on the deaths. Some 14,000 residents in the state abandoned their homes to escape floodwaters. In nearby Piaui state, the floods drove about 19,000 people from their homes and destroyed corn and bean crops, officials said. About 30 cities and towns were isolated by washed-out roads.