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Thousands affected by flooding in parts of Brazil and Indonesia

Heavy rains in Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, have killed 39 people, according to local authorities. The death toll is expected to rise as dozens of deaths have still not been accounted for.

Rio Grande do Sul’s Civil Protection Authority said 68 people were still missing and at least 24,000 had been displaced as the storms hit more than half of the 497 towns in the state, which borders Uruguay and Argentina .

“These numbers could change significantly in the coming days as we gain access to more regions,” Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite told reporters.

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.

In Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the Guaiba River broke its banks, flooding streets and blocking access to the city’s historic central districts.

The state is located at a geographic meeting point between tropical and polar atmospheres, creating a weather pattern that includes periods of intense rainfall and other periods of drought.

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Local scientists in Brazil believe the pattern has increased due to climate change.

Heavy rains had already hit Rio Grande do Sul last September, when an extratropical cyclone caused flooding that killed more than 50 people. This came after more than two years of persistent drought due to the La Nina phenomenon, with only sparse showers.

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

Meanwhile, floods and landslides caused by heavy rain have killed fourteen people in Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province. Nearly 115 people were evacuated, the country’s disaster management agency said on Saturday.

The early morning floods in Luwu Regency affected more than 1,300 families and damaged more than 1,800 houses, although water levels have since started to recede in some areas, the agency said.

With input from Reuters