Brazil: 37 dead and dozens missing in the worst floods in 80 years | Brazil

Heavy rains in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul have killed 37 people, and 74 others are still missing, as record floods destroyed cities and forced thousands to abandon their homes.

This is the fourth environmental disaster of its kind in one year, following floods in July, September and November that killed a total of 75 people.

Statewide flooding has exceeded those seen during a historic 1941 deluge, according to the Brazilian Geological Service. The agency said that water levels in some cities reached their highest levels since records began about 150 years ago.

On Thursday, a dam at a hydroelectric power station between the cities of Pinto Goncalves and Cutipora partially collapsed, and entire cities in the Tacuari River Valley, such as Lajedo and Estrella, were submerged. In the town of Velez, 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the state capital, Porto Alegre, a swollen river washed away a bridge that connected it to the neighboring city of Linha Nova.

Operators reported power, communications, and water outages across the state. More than 23,000 people were forced to leave their homes, according to the Civil Defense Agency.

Without internet, phone service or electricity, residents struggled to provide updates or information to their relatives living in other states. Helicopters constantly flew over the cities as stranded families with their children waited for rescue on rooftops.

Rainfall began on Monday and is expected to continue until at least Saturday, Marcelo Cellucci, chief meteorologist at the National Center for Natural Disaster Monitoring and Warning, told Brazil’s public television network on Friday.

See also  Hong Kong's leader said police would investigate suspicious withdrawals from the organ donation registry

On Thursday night, Governor Eduardo Leyte warned the state’s residents, known as gauchos, of continued rains and flooding. He added that the situation in Porto Alegre is expected to worsen.

A family rescued by military firefighters in Lajedo, Rio Grande do Sul. Photography: Jeff Bottega/Reuters

“As a human being, I am destroyed inside, like any gaucho,” he said. But as governor, I am here to stand firm and guarantee that we will not falter. We do everything with focus, attention, discipline and rage, to ensure we get everything done within our reach.”

The weather across South America is affected by the climate phenomenon El Niño, a naturally occurring periodic event that warms surface waters in the tropical Pacific. In Brazil, El Niño has historically caused droughts in the north and heavy rains in the south.

This year, the effects of El Niño have been particularly dramatic, with a historic drought in the Amazon. Scientists say extreme weather is occurring more frequently due to human-caused climate change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *