Six-month-old and his father were presumed dead

News of the “miracle” rescue of a six-month-old Brazilian boy provided a rare moment of hope on Friday, as the death toll from this week's devastating landslips continued to rise.

Nicolas Barreto was reportedly at his grandmother's home in the hilltop town of Nova Friburgo, one of the worst-affected settlements, when a cascade of earth and debris swallowed up the area on Wednesday.

He and his father were presumed dead. Almost 15 hours later, however, elated Brazilian fire-fighters — including some who helped out after Haiti's earthquake — discovered Nicolas and Wellington da Silva Guimaraes alive.

According to reports, the child and his 25-year-old father were cocooned in an underground air pocket and protected by the collapsed concrete roof. Mr. Guimaraes wrapped himself around his son during their 15-hour ordeal.

“We can consider this a miracle,” one of the rescuers said, as Nicolas was rushed to hospital.

Ademilson Barreto Guimaraes, Nicolas' grandfather, wept as the child was hauled from the debris at around 8.30 p.m. “There's no way of explaining this. It really is a miracle,” he told reporters.

More than 500 people have died, with the number expected to rise further as rescue workers continue to pull bodies from the muddy earth.

The force of the landslips meant that there were few survivors; most victims were buried alive as they slept.

“It's ugly, really ugly,” said Vicente Luiz Florente, a builder whose brother was buried under rocks in the Campo Grande favela in Teresópolis and has yet to be found. “This was a community — now all you can see is rocks.”

Nicolas's family did not escape the carnage. Hours after he was found alive, his mother and grandmother were reported dead. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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