Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead, water rises in Porto Alegre

Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead, water rises in Porto Alegre
Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead, water rises in Porto Alegre

The floods which have been devastating the state of Rio Grande do Sul for several days have left around sixty dead and dozens missing, a “dramatic” and “unprecedented” situation which particularly affects the large metropolis of this southern region, Porto Alegre. .

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A new toll of at least 57 dead and 67 missing was communicated by Brazilian civil defense on Saturday. Furthermore, at least two other people were killed in the explosion of a gas station in Porte Alegre, noted an AFP journalist present during the explosion.

The situation is “dramatic” and “absolutely unprecedented,” said Eduardo Leite, governor of the state, where nearly 300 localities are affected, on Saturday.

A large part of them find themselves isolated, roads having been cut by floods or landslides, and communications disrupted in this state where it is expected to rain at least until Sunday.

The authorities gave orders to evacuate certain neighborhoods of the metropolis of Porto Alegre, the state capital which has nearly 1.4 million inhabitants, located at the confluence of several rivers.

With the rapid rise in the waters of the Guaiba, an emblematic river of southern Brazil, floods have affected its historic center. The river level reached 5.09 meters on Saturday, exceeding the historic record of 4.76 dating from 1941, according to the town hall.

“In a few minutes”

“In a few minutes, in less than an hour, everything was flooded. I lost everything, the television, the wardrobe, the bed, the fridge, everything,” José Augusto Moraes de Lima, a 61-year-old trader who lives in the Navegantes neighborhood, in the northern part, told AFP. from the city.

It was in this neighborhood that a flooded gas station, located on an avenue, exploded, killing two people and generating a thick cloud of smoke visible from afar. Firefighters were evacuating victims of the disaster, suffering from burns, AFP noted.

In many places, long queues formed hoping to board a bus, while motorists tried to make their way through flooded roadways.

Referring to another river that runs through the city, Porte Alegre Mayor Sebastiao Melo wrote on X that the dam holding back the Gravatai River “has started overflowing again.” “The communities must leave the area,” he said.

Mr. Melo also asked the population to ration water, after four of the city’s six treatment plants had to be closed.

Porto Alegre International Airport has suspended its activities.

Porto Alegre is the capital of one of the most prosperous states in the country, with the fifth largest GDP in Latin America’s largest economy and predominantly agricultural production, with important crops of soy, rice, wheat and corn.

Baby rescued by helicopter

Housing areas drowned as far as the eye can see, roads destroyed or bridges swept away by the current: the human and material damage is considerable and especially concentrated in the central region of this state bordering Argentina and Uruguay, and the task first aiders are formidable.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva released a video showing members of the armed forces rescuing a baby by helicopter. We see an officer hitting the roof of a house with a brick to remove the baby, wrapped in a blanket.

Some 32,600 people had to leave their homes, more than 9,500 of whom are now housed in facilities such as sports or cultural centers, according to civil defense, which also counts 74 injured.

In a reception center in Gravatai, north of Porto Alegre, Claudio Almiro says that when he left his house, he was “up to his hips in water”. “I lost everything,” he confides.

In Capela de Santana, also north of Porto Alegre, Raul Metzel says his neighbors had to abandon their livestock. “They don’t know if the water will continue to rise or what will happen to the animals, they may drown soon.”

Climate crisis

The weather forecasts are worrying, with rains of “extreme severity” expected to persist until Sunday, according to Civil Defense, which also warned of the risk of another river, the Uruguay River, overflowing.

Hundreds of thousands of people were left without electricity. The water supply is also compromised in many localities, as is access to the internet or mobile telephone networks.

To the north of Rio Grande do Sul, the neighboring state of Santa Catarina is now also hit by the rains.

Rio Grande do Sul has already been hit several times by deadly bad weather, notably in September, when 31 people died after the passage of a devastating cyclone.

According to experts, these extreme weather phenomena have increased in frequency and intensity with global warming.

Brazil experienced a historic drought last year in the north of the country and the number of wildfires reached a record from January to April, with more than 17,000 outbreaks recorded across the country, more than half in the Amazon.

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