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Dams are under pressure as water levels and death tolls rise in southern Brazil

The death toll from floods and mudslides caused by intense storms in southern Brazil rose to 37 yesterday, officials said, as rescuers searched for 74 people reported missing in the devastation. Rising water levels in Rio Grande do Sul state put pressure on the dams. and threatening the metropolis of Porto Alegre with “unprecedented” flooding, authorities warned. “Forget everything you’ve seen, it’s going to get much worse in the metropolitan region,” Governor Eduardo Leite said yesterday as the streets of the state capital, with a population of some 1.5 million people began to flood . Since the beginning of the week, at least 235 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul have suffered storm damage, injuring at least 74 people and displacing more than 23,600. More than 350,000 people have experienced some form of distress. Authorities said there was no end in sight, with officials reporting an “emergency situation involving a risk of collapse” at four dams in the state. The level of the state’s main Guiaba river, meanwhile, was estimated to have reached 4.2-4.6 (about 13.7-15′) yesterday but could not be measured because the gauges have been washed away, Porto’s mayor said Alegre. As temperatures continued to rise, officials rushed to strengthen flood protection. Porto Alegre’s worst recorded flood was in 1941, when the river reached a height of 4.71 meters. Elsewhere in the state, several cities and towns have been completely cut off from the world in what Governor Leite described as “the worst disaster in the history” of Rio Grande do Sul. Many communities do not have access to drinking water, telephone or internet services. Tens of thousands were without electricity amid the ruins of collapsed homes, bridges and roads, authorities said. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the region on Thursday and promised “there will be no lack of human or material resources” in responding to the disaster, which he blamed on climate change. The central government has sent planes, boats and more than 600 soldiers to help clear roads, distribute food, water and mattresses and set up shelters. School classes have been suspended across the state. South America’s largest country has suffered a series of recent extreme weather events, which experts say are more likely due to climate change. The flooding came amid a cold front that lashed the south and southeast due to a wave surge. from extreme heat. The north of the country recently experienced a historic drought, and the number of forest fires reached a new record in the first four months of this year. “Rain in the south, fire in the north… these two tragedies bear the fingerprints of the climate crisis,” the Climate Observatory non-governmental organization (NGO) warned in a statement. “The government must take urgent action to prevent the situation from getting worse.” Last September, at least 31 people were killed when a cyclone hit Rio Grande do Sul.