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Brazil floods: At least 75 people killed and 103 others missing

Brazil floods: At least 75 people killed and 103 others missing

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Massive floods in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul have killed at least 75 people over the past seven days, and 103 others are reported missing, local authorities said Sunday.

At least 155 people were injured, while rain damage forced more than 88,000 people to leave their homes. Nearly 16,000 people have taken refuge in schools, gyms and other temporary shelters.

The floods left a trail of devastation, including landslides, washed-out roads and collapsed bridges across the state. Operators reported power and communications outages. More than 800,000 people suffer from interrupted water supplies, according to the Civil Defense Agency, citing figures from the Korsan Water Company.

A rescue team pulled an elderly man in serious medical condition to a helicopter from a remote area in the municipality of Pinto Gonçalves, according to footage taken by military firefighters. Torrents of brown water poured over a nearby dam.

On Saturday evening, residents of the town of Canoas stood shoulder to shoulder in the muddy water and formed a human chain to pull boats carrying people to safety, according to video footage published by local news network UOL.

The Guayba River reached a record level of 5.33 meters (17.5 feet) on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. local time, exceeding levels seen during a historic flood in 1941, when the river reached 4.76 metres.

“I repeat and insist: the devastation we are exposed to is unprecedented,” state Governor Eduardo Leyte said on Sunday morning. He had previously said the state would need “some sort of ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild it.”

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Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited Rio Grande do Sul for the second time on Sunday, accompanied by Defense Minister José Mosío, Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, Environment Minister Marina Silva and others. The leftist leader and his team surveyed the flooded streets of Porto Alegre from a helicopter.

“We need to stop running after disasters. We need to see in advance what disasters might happen, and we have to act,” Lula told reporters afterward.

During Sunday’s Mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was praying for the state’s residents. “May the Lord welcome the dead and console their families and those who had to leave their homes,” he said.

Heavy rains began on Monday and are expected to continue until Sunday. In some areas, such as valleys, mountain slopes and cities, more than 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain fell in less than a week, Brazil’s National Meteorological Institute, known by its Portuguese acronym INMET, said Thursday.

The heavy rains were the fourth such environmental disaster in the state in a year, following floods in July, September and November 2023 that claimed 75 lives.

The weather throughout South America is affected by… El Niño climate phenomenonIt is a naturally occurring, periodic event that causes surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific to rise. In Brazil, El Niño has historically caused droughts in the north and heavy rains in the south.

This year, the effects of El Niño have been particularly dramatic Historical drought in the Amazon region. Scientists say extreme weather is occurring more frequently due to human-caused climate change.

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“These tragedies will continue to happen, and they will be worse and more frequent,” said Solly Araújo, public policy coordinator at Climate Observatory, a network of dozens of environmental and social groups.

Brazil needs to adapt to the effects of climate change, she said in a statement issued on Friday, referring to a process known as adaptation.

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Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage on https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment