Heavy rains in southern Brazil kill nearly 60 people

Heavy rains in Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, have killed at least 55 people, while dozens remain missing.

Rio Grande do Sul’s Civil Protection Authority said on Saturday that 74 people were still missing and more than 69,000 had been displaced as storms in recent days destroyed nearly two-thirds of the 497 towns in the state, which borders Uruguay and Argentina, have hit.

The municipality is investigating whether another seven deaths were related to the storms, after a total of more than 55 deaths were reported earlier in the day.

Floods destroyed roads and bridges in several regions of the state. The storm also caused landslides and the partial collapse of a dam at a small hydroelectric power station. A second dam in the town of Bento Goncalves is also at risk of collapse, authorities said.

In Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Lake Guaiba burst its banks, flooding streets.

Porto Alegre International Airport has suspended all flights indefinitely.

State Governor Eduardo Leite told reporters on Saturday evening that Rio Grande do Sul would need a “Marshall plan” to recover from the storms and their consequences, referring to a plan for Europe’s economic recovery after World War II.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had visited Rio Grande do Sul on Thursday, will travel back to the state on Sunday to monitor rescue efforts, his communications chief Paulo Pimenta said on Saturday.

Lula said on X that his government is in constant contact with state and city authorities to support the region with whatever they need.

Rain is expected in the northern and northeastern regions of the state until Sunday, but precipitation amounts have decreased and should be well below the peak seen earlier this week, according to the state meteorological authority.

Still, river levels should remain high for several more days, Leite said earlier on Saturday.

Rio Grande do Sul 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.

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