Brazil helicopters reach isolated flood victims

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Brazilian army helicopters have reached residents who have been cut off from help for five days because of recent flooding.

One team managed to rescue five people in the morning as clearer weather allowed the aircraft to navigate more safely around the craggy terrain north of Rio de Janiero.

The death toll from the flooding and subsequent mudslides stands at 665 but is still rising and 120 people are reported missing.

Hundreds of people are still believed to be in areas at risk of fresh mudslides. Many of them are cut off from help by smashed roads and bridges while others are refusing to leave for fear their houses will be raided by looters.

Four army helicopters are being used from a makeshift base on the training ground for Brazil's national soccer team in the town of Teresopolis.

Heavy rains last week sparked one of Brazil's worst natural disasters, sending an avalanche of mud, water and rocks plowing through towns and villages in the scenic region.

In the capital Brasilia, the government sought to fend off criticism over its response by announcing that it would implement a national alert system to warn people in risky areas of approaching natural disasters.

The announcement came after the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that Brazil had failed to meet a series of recommendations on improving disaster preparedness made by the United Nations in 2005.