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Rain showers in southern Brazil kill at least 31 people, of whom more than 70 are still missing

(Reuters) – Heavy rains in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul have killed 31 people, local authorities said on Friday, and the death toll is expected to rise as dozens remain unaccounted for people.

According to the Civil Defense of Rio Grande do Sul, more than 70 people are still missing and at least 17,000 people have been displaced in the state bordering Uruguay and Argentina, where almost half of the 497 towns have been affected.

In several cities, streets effectively turned into rivers, destroying roads and bridges. The storm also caused landslides and the partial collapse of a dam structure at a small hydroelectric power station.

A second dam in the town of Bento Goncalves is also at risk of collapse, authorities said. They ordered people living nearby to evacuate.

“It’s not just a critical situation; it is probably the most critical case the state has ever recorded,” Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite said in a live broadcast on social media on Thursday.

He added that the death toll is likely to rise further as authorities have been unable to reach some locations.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva traveled to the state on Thursday to visit the affected locations and discuss rescue efforts with the governor.

(Reporting by Fernando Cardoso; Writing by Peter Frontini; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)