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Rains, mudslides kill 29 in southern Brazil’s ‘worst disaster’

In News, World
May 03, 2024

The death toll from heavy rains in Brazil’s southern Rio Grande do Sul state has climbed to 29, with at least 60 people missing, according to the state’s civil defence agency.

The authorities in Rio Grande do Sul have declared a state of emergency as rescuers continue to search for dozens of people reported missing among the ruins of collapsed homes, bridges and roads.

Rescuers and soldiers have been scrambling to free families trapped in their homes, many stranded on rooftops to escape rising waters.

Storm damage has affected nearly 150 municipalities in the state, also injuring 36 people and displacing more than 10,000.

Governor Eduardo Leite said Rio Grande do Sul was dealing with “the worst disaster in [its] history”, adding that the number of dead was expected to rise.

On Thursday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised “there will be no lack of human or material resources” to “minimize the suffering this extreme event … is causing in the state”.

Federal authorities have already made available 12 aircraft, 45 vehicles and 12 boats as well as 626 soldiers to help clear roads, distribute food, water and mattresses, and set up shelters.

Forecasts warned that the state’s main Guaiba river, which has already overflowed its banks in some areas, could rise to four metres (13 feet) on Friday.

Entire communities in Rio Grande do Sul have been completely cut off as the persistent rains have destroyed bridges and blocked roads, and left towns without telephone and internet services.

The authorities have told people to avoid areas along state highways due to the risk of mudslides, and urged those who live near rivers or on hillsides to evacuate.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without access to drinking water, while classes have been suspended statewide.

South America’s largest country has suffered a string of recent extreme weather events, which experts say are made more likely by climate change. The floods came amid a cold front battering the south and southeast, following a wave of extreme heat.

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