France – World – Floods in Brazil: already 100 dead, rain interrupts evacuations

France – World – Floods in Brazil: already 100 dead, rain interrupts evacuations
France – World – Floods in Brazil: already 100 dead, rain interrupts evacuations

In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, a rich agricultural region hit throughout last week by torrential rains, scenes of desolation follow one another.

Driven from their homes by the waters, residents of the Santo André favela in Porto Alegre set up a makeshift camp on a deserted highway. “I’m terrified, but what can I do?” said Adan Moreira dos Santos, a 55-year-old trader.

The human toll is already heavy but still provisional: 100 dead, 130 missing, 374 injured, according to Civil Defense.

Porto Alegre (around 1.4 million inhabitants) and more than 400 localities were hit by these exceptionally violent bad weather, forcing more than 163,000 people to flee their homes.

The Guaiba River, which crosses the metropolis and experienced a historic flood of up to 5.30 meters, fell to 5.06 meters on Wednesday, but the situation remains very delicate.

Volunteers went out in the morning on small boats or jetskis to navigate the flooded streets and evacuate residents still trapped by the waters, but also those who are reluctant to leave their homes for fear of burglaries.

But the return of rain cut short the rescue operations. Near the flooded football stadium of the local team Grêmio, where a disembarkation zone was improvised for the evacuees, the volunteers had to store their boats, AFP journalists noted.

On the social network X, the town hall requested that “boats engaged in rescue operations temporarily suspend their activities”. She also mentioned “winds exceeding 80 km/h”.

The authorities also appealed to the victims not to try to return home, as their homes were weakened.

In addition, “contaminated water can transmit diseases,” warned Sabrina Ribas, spokesperson for Civil Defense.

– Pestilential odors –

About ten days after the start of the rains, the smell is nauseating in Porto Alegre because of the stagnant water which sometimes resembles open landfills.

And rain is still expected in the metropolitan region from Friday to Sunday.

In the south of the state, flooding is expected to reach “severe proportions” in the coming days due to the “colossal” volume of water in the Guaiba and other rivers, warned the specialist site MetSul Meteorologia.

The state government has taken emergency measures for five dams, two of which are at “risk of imminent failure”.

At the same time, initial assessments of material damage are being established.

A flooded area of ​​the historic center of Porto Alegre, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, on May 8, 2024 in Brazil AFP PHOTO / Anselmo CUNHA

Nearly 61,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to the National Confederation of Municipalities, which revised downwards a previous figure of 100,000.

Economic losses reach 6.3 billion reais (around 1.1 billion euros), according to projections from this body. The damage suffered by schools, hospitals and town halls is estimated at 351 million reais (64 million euros).

After the flooded Porto Alegre airport closed, the Canoas military base on the outskirts was mobilized to accommodate commercial flights transporting aid and passengers, the air force announced.

According to the mayor of Porto Alegre, Sebastian Melo, the authorities are also working to build a “humanitarian corridor” between the city and its region, a key point for supplying the city, where there is already a lack of drinking water.

For the moment “nothing is missing, except water” but “for certain products we draw from our stock”, told AFP Roger da Silva, 36, manager of a supermarket in Viamao, a town in the is from the capital.

The federal government announced that it would import 200,000 tonnes of rice to guarantee supplies and also avoid price speculation, with Rio Grande do Sul supplying more than two thirds of the rice consumed in Brazil.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres deplored in a statement the loss of life in Brazil and stressed that disasters of this kind constitute a “reminder of the devastating effects of the climate crisis”.

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