Survivors across the region were seen wading through waist-high water, carrying what belongings they could, trying to reach higher ground.
Tangles of plumbing were wrapped in trees, children's clothing littered the earth and massive trees were tossed about like toothpicks.
Only a few rescuers had managed to hike to a flooded neigborhood by Thursday and they only had shovels and machetes.
More rain is expected this weekend.
President Dilma Rousseff flew by helicopter over the region Thursday. The nation's Health Ministry said it was sending 7 tons of medications to the area, enough to treat 45,000 people for a month, it said in a statement.
Another 34 people had already died in floods and slides since Christmas in southeastern Brazil.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.