Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead

Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead
Southern Brazil flooded: around sixty dead

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. .

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”, declared Saturday Eduardo Leite, governor of the state, where nearly 300 localities are affected.

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.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of certain neighborhoods in the metropolis of Porto Alegre, one of the largest cities in southern Brazil, with a population of 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 5.04 meters on Saturday, exceeding the historic record of 4.76 dating from 1941, according to the town hall.

“In a few minutes”

In the Navegantes neighborhood, in the northern part of the city, José Augusto Moraes de Lima requested help from firefighters to save a child stuck in his house.

“In a few minutes, in less than an hour, everything was flooded. I lost everything, the television, the wardrobe, the bed, the fridge, everything,” this 61-year-old trader told AFP.

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 injuries, AFP noted.

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.

Porto Alegre International Airport has suspended its activities for an indefinite period.

Porto Alegre is the capital of one of the most prosperous states in the country, with the fifth GDP of the largest economy in Latin America and a 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 24,600 people had to leave their homes, more than 8,200 of whom are now housed in facilities such as sports or cultural centers, according to the authorities, who also counted 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 forecast is worrying, with “extremely severe” rain 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 forest fires reached a record from January to April, with more than 17,000 outbreaks recorded across the country, more than half in the Amazon.


ats, afp

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