Rescue workers on the job despite new rains in Brazil

Rescue workers on the job despite new rains in Brazil
Rescue workers on the job despite new rains in Brazil

Heavy rains last week in the state of Rio Grande do Sul caused rivers to overflow, affecting nearly two million people and leaving 136 dead and 756 injured, according to Civil Defense on Saturday.

Some 125 people are still missing, while more than 410,000 have been forced to abandon their homes due to the disaster, which UN experts and the Brazilian government link to climate change and the El Niño phenomenon.

More than 92,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the floods, according to the National Confederation of Municipalities.

The Brazilian government promised Thursday to release some nine billion euros for the reconstruction of this important agricultural state in the south of the country, which is experiencing the worst natural disaster in its history.

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Pharmacy workers collect items after flooding in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Saturday, May 11. (Andre Penner/Associated Press)

Since the return of rains on Friday in the regional capital Porto Alegre and other areas already affected, the authorities remain on alert and are increasing messages asking the population not to return to the disaster areas.

The region expects “isolated showers and storms,” which will continue until early next week, according to the National Meteorological Institute, which warns of the risk of “flooding and electric shocks.”

Aid Distribution

According to the state government, the Gauiba, a body of water that borders Porto Alegre as much considered a river, lake or estuary, reached 4.59 meters on Saturday morning, its lowest level since on May 3 (4.58 m), before starting to climb again.

In the regional capital of 1.4 million inhabitants, operations to distribute food aid, drinking water, medicine and clothing continue despite the rain.

In the Sao Joao district, largely still underwater, firefighters and volunteers are working, journalists on site noted. Aboard inflatable boats, boats or jet skis, they distribute aid to residents still stuck at home.

The flow of boats to the affected areas, where many people stayed at home for fear of looting, has however reduced.

Bottled water remains rare in the city, and tank trucks supply shelters, hospitals, buildings and hotels night and day.

Despite new rains and chaos, residents are trying to regain some semblance of normalcy. Some stores are reopening, while the water has started to recede in places. Elsewhere, trucks pump the muddy water which still invades streets and buildings.

The highest volumes of precipitation are forecast to occur between Sunday and Monday.

Historic floods, record-breaking forest fires, unprecedented heat waves, drought, extreme weather events have continued in Brazil in recent months.

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