At least 39 dead in southern Brazil’s worst floods in 80 years « Khabarhub

Residents and their pets evacuate a flooded area after heavy rain in Sao Sebastiao do Cai, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil/Photo: AP

SAO PAULO: Heavy rains in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul have killed 39 people, while 68 remain missing, the state civil protection agency said, as record flooding devastated towns and forced thousands to leave their homes.

It was the fourth environmental disaster in a year, after floods in July, September and November 2023 that killed a total of 75 people.

According to Brazil’s Geological Survey, the statewide flooding is greater than that of a historic deluge in 1941. In some cities, water levels were at their highest level since records began nearly 150 years ago, the agency said.

On Thursday, a dam at a hydroelectric power station between the towns of Bento Goncalves and Cotipora partially collapsed and entire towns in the Taquari River valley, such as Lajeado and Estrela, were completely overtaken by water.

In the city of Feliz, 80 kilometers from the capital, Porto Alegre, a hugely swollen river has swept away a bridge connecting the city to the neighboring town of Linha Nova.

Operators reported power, communications and water outages across the state. According to civil protection, more than 24,000 people had to leave their homes.

Without internet, phone service or electricity, residents struggled to provide updates or information to their relatives living in other states.

Helicopters flew continuously over the cities as stranded families with children waited on the roofs for rescue.

Isolete Neumann, 58, who lives in the town of Lajeado in the Taquari River valley, told The Associated Press she has never before seen what she is seeing now.

“People were making barricades in front of hospitals with sand and gravel. It felt like a horror movie,” she said on the phone. Some people in her region were so desperate, she added, that they threw themselves into the floodwaters.

Neumann’s neighborhood wasn’t flooded, but it doesn’t have running water and she hasn’t showered since Tuesday. She said she collects rainwater in a basin so she can cook.

A clothing store she owns in the city center is underwater, she added.

The downpour started on Monday and is expected to continue at least until Saturday, Marcelo Seluchi, chief meteorologist at the National Center for Monitoring and Alerting of Natural Disasters, told Brazilian public television on Friday.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recognized the flood victims at a press conference together with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Brasilia on Friday.