SAO LUIS, Brazil -- Brazil intensified efforts to get food and other aid to people isolated by severe flooding as waters kept rising in some areas Monday, including a jungle river nearing its highest level in more than 50 years.
At least 40 people have died in the worst flooding in northern Brazil in at least two decades, and the number of homeless is now above 308,000. Communities remained inundated despite some easing of rain and two deaths were reported in a previously unaffected state.
While officials reported waters were receding in most areas, some rivers were rising in the jungle state of Amazonas, including the Rio Negro that feeds the Amazon River. It was just 74 centimeters (29 inches) below a record set in 1953 at a measuring station in Manaus, an industrial city that is the jumping off point for rainforest tourism, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency said.
"The situation is very difficult because the state is so large and there are places you can't get to," said Dorothea de Araujo, the Amazon operations manager for the international aid group World Vision. "Food and water are priorities because people are drinking contaminated water."
World Vision planned to send boats with supplies and doctors to help about 30 Amazon communities, she said.
In the hard-hit northeastern state of Maranhao, some roads were reopened and officials using trucks and helicopters began distributing tons of food, medicine, mattresses and blankets flown in on military cargo jets, said Paulo Andrade, logistics coordinator for the state.
"Now we'll be able deliver the things that are needed: mainly food and potable water," he said.
Images from a helicopter flight over Maranhao showed towns with submerged homes and newly created lakes surrounding them. Volunteers lined up to receive boxes of goods being distributed from a military helicopter.
The number of homeless rose by more than 7,000 to 308,455, the result of an unusual two-month siege of rain that caused widespread flooding last week in parts of 10 of Brazil's 26 states. Several states warned that more people could be forced to flee.
The body of a man thought to have died after a canoe overturned in a town was found Monday, but authorities had not classified it as a flood death pending further investigation. A woman was still missing in that incident.
In the coastal state of Sergipe, an 8-year-old girl was swept away while watching rising waters and a man was killed after floodwaters filled his car, the private sector Agencia Estado news agency reported Monday.