Brazil: the south of the country under water, 29 dead and 60 missing

The death toll from the torrential rains that have hit southern Brazil in recent days, with their procession of floods and landslides, reached at least 29 deaths on Thursday, and 60 people are still missing. Across the state of Rio Grande do Sul, to which President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised government aid, there are Dantesque scenes: gigantic mudslides, houses and cars drowned as far as the eye can see, evacuations of residents and animals carried out in extremely risky conditions by emergency services.

“Worst climate disaster”

For Governor Eduardo Leite, this is the “worst climate disaster” ever seen in this border state with Uruguay and Argentina. “I want to deeply deplore all the lives lost. There are 29 deaths currently recorded, and with the deepest pain I know that there will be more,” he said at the end of the day, also announcing 60 missing. The previous report showed 13 dead and 21 missing. Thirty-six injuries were recorded.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Everything is underwater and it’s going to get even worse. It’s impossible to sleep, we don’t know how much the water level will continue to rise.” , told AFP Raul Metzel, 52, resident of the town of Capela de Santana. Aerial views taken by AFPTV show entire sectors of this locality invaded by the waves, from which only the roofs of houses emerge. On Wednesday evening, a “state of public calamity” was declared in Rio Grande do Sul, affected for several days by devastating storms and thunderstorms.

“Alleviate suffering”

Lula, who met the governor on Thursday in Santa Maria, one of the most affected cities, promised that Rio Grande do Sul “will not lack the means” human or material to deal with this tragedy. More than 600 soldiers were to be sent as reinforcements for relief operations and the distribution of food to the victims. Accompanied in particular by the Minister of the Environment Marina Silva, the Head of State assured that the federal government was mobilized “100%” to “mitigate the suffering due to this extreme natural event”. The floods are concentrated in the central region of Rio Grande do Sul, where 154 localities have been hit.

According to the latest report from Civil Defense, more than 10,000 people had to leave their homes, of which some 4,600 were taken into accommodation. Many roads are inaccessible and water and electricity supplies are compromised for hundreds of thousands of people, according to local authorities. Cities are completely isolated, without internet or mobile phone signal. The governor ordered the evacuation of residents of six municipalities located in a mountainous region, due to the flooding of the Cai River.

Claudio Oliveira, a 54-year-old mechanic who lives in Capela de Santana, is worried about his relatives who live in Montenegro, one of the municipalities concerned, about twenty kilometers away. “We can’t do anything. Part of my family lives there, but I can’t bring them to my house because we can’t go and pick them up,” he laments.

Rain expected Friday

There was also concern after the announcement of the partial rupture of a dam in Cotipora, another mountain town. The meteorological institute Inmet has forecast heavy rainfall until Friday. Classes have been suspended until further notice in schools in Rio Grande do Sul, as well as football matches scheduled for this weekend. In September, at least 31 people died in this state after a devastating cyclone.

According to experts, global warming is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events that occur one after the other in Brazil. The situation is further aggravated by the El Niño climatic phenomenon. Scientists estimate that current global temperatures are about 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than in the mid-19th century, leading to increased floods, droughts and heatwaves.

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