Brazil was still reeling on Thursday from the devastation of a recent spate of intense rains, flash flooding and mudslides that have killed 39 and displaced over 50,000 people in two southeastern states.

Both Brazil's National Guard and army have been called in to assist in rescue efforts in the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo.

The heavy rains, which began falling last week, have caused dangerous flooding and mudslides.

The most heavily affected state, Espirito Santo, has been under a state of emergency since Saturday.

While the majority of residents displaced from their homes have found refuge with family and friends, in Espirito Santo alone authorities have had to shelter more than 4,500 people.

Mudslides have destroyed homes while even burying some residents alive.

In the last few days, rescue workers found buried victims as they sorted through the devastation — pushing the death toll higher.

One local father, Leandro, recalled being able to free himself from rubble and then managing to save his daughter and another trapped girl.

"When I heard a noise, there was already no more time for anything. I was pushing against the wall but got buried as well. I managed to find a piece of wood and grab onto it so I could pull my body free. I heard my daughter asking for help and when I freed her, I heard another girl crying for help. I got her out as well," said the man, who goes by one name.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who visited Espirito Santo on Tuesday, said that saving lives was priority No. 1.

"You have to save people and then guarantee them shelter. This is what you do in when confronting a disaster. The first and most important priority, that which is most precious, is human life. That's what we worry about saving first," Rousseff said.