At least 57 people killed by floods in southern Brazil

At least 57 people killed by floods in southern Brazil
At least 57 people killed by floods in southern Brazil

(CNN) — At least 57 people have died and another 373 are missing due to the heavy rains and floods that hit the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul this week.

Around 74 people have been injured amid the series of catastrophic floods that have affected 281 municipalities, according to the latest figures shared by the civil defense this Saturday.

The local government has declared a state of calamity in areas where there are more than 67,000 victims. Nearly 10,000 have been displaced and more than 4,500 are in temporary shelters, according to civil defense.

Authorities are closely monitoring the dams, which are not designed to handle such a high volume of water, but say there is no imminent risk of breaking.

Volunteers use a fishing boat to rescue residents trapped inside their homes in São Sebastião do Cai, Rio Grande do Sul state. (Anselmo Cunha/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met Thursday with local authorities overseeing rescue efforts.

The governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Eduardo Leite, warned Thursday night that the state capital, Porto Alegre, with more than 1,300,000 people, runs the risk of suffering the largest flood in its history due to the rapid rise of the waters of Lake Guaíba, on the outskirts of the city.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing a historic disaster,” declared Leite. “The material losses are gigantic, but our goal at the moment is rescues. There are still people waiting for help.”

Porto Alegre suffered the largest flood in its history in 1941, which left 70,000 people homeless, a quarter of the city’s then-272,000 inhabitants, according to data cited by the city government.

The images showed murky brown waters that in some areas reached the rooftops, while rescue teams went out with inflatable rafts to take people and pets on board.

This Saturday morning, the water level of Lake Guaíba rose five meters (196 inches) due to intense rains, threatening the state capital, Porto Alegre, according to authorities.

The Brazil Foundation, in collaboration with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, created a fund to help flood victims.

Rio Grande do Sul has been increasingly affected by extreme weather events in recent years. In September, at least 54 people died in the state after being hit by a subtropical cyclone. This year’s death toll has already surpassed that record.

The climate crisis, caused mainly by man’s burning of fossil fuels, is fueling extreme weather events around the world, making many of them more intense and frequent.

A drone view shows vehicles affected by flooding in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 3, 2024. (Photo: Diego Vara/Reuters).

A drone view shows vehicles affected by flooding in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 3, 2024. (Photo: Diego Vara/Reuters).

In recent weeks alone, record rains have caused deadly flooding and brought chaos to the desert city of Dubai. Reservoirs across Southeast Asia have been drying up due to a persistent regional heat wave and ongoing drought, while Kenya is battling floods and heavy rains that have overflowed river banks and killed nearly 200 people.

Last year was the hottest on record, and air and ocean temperatures rose beyond many scientists’ predictions. The world is already 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times.

According to the UN, the proportion of high-intensity hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, has increased due to rising global temperatures. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and lasting longer.

Scientists have also found that storms are more likely to stall and cause devastating rain and to last longer after making landfall.

Lizzy Yee, Julia Vargas Jones, Omar Fajardo and Verónica Calderón also contributed to this report CNN contributed to this report.

This report has been updated

 
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