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Brazil floods: State of emergency in Rio Grande do Sul

May 3, 2024

The death toll from heavy rains in Brazil's southernmost state is rising, and more downpours are expected. President Lula flew over the area and promised government resources to assist.

Firefighters rescue a man and his dog from a flooded area at the city center of Sao Sebastiao do Cai, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil
More than 10,000 people have been displaced by the floodingImage: Anselmo Cunha/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul declared a state of emergency on Thursday after floods and mudslides caused by torrential rains left at least 29 people dead and 60 missing.

Storm damage has affected nearly 150 municipalities, forcing over 10,000 people from their homes.

Governor Eduardo Leite said the southern state was dealing with "the worst climate disaster that our state ever faced."

Lula promises help to 'minimize the suffering'

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew over the affected areas and held emergency talks with Governor Leite in Santa Maria.

Lula promised "there will be no lack of human or material resources" to "minimize the suffering this extreme event... is causing in the state."

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a meeting with Governor of Rio Grande do Sul state Eduardo Leite after heavy rains damaged several cities in the sstate of Rio Grande do Sul
Lula traveled to the state and met with local authorities and express his solidarityImage: Ricardo Stuckert/Brazilian Presidency/REUTERS

In some areas, the flooding is so severe entire communities have been completely cut off.

The downpours have inundated many parts of Rio Grande do Sul, destroying bridges, blocking roads, and leaving towns without telephone or internet services.

On Thursday, a dam at a small hydroelectric plant burst, leaving over 300,000 people without electricity, according to the state's main utility company.

More rain predicted

Meteorologists predict more rain in the region and warned levels of the main Guaiba River, which has overflowed its banks in some areas, will continue to rise through Friday.

The downpour started Monday, and in some areas, more than 150 millimeters (6 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours on the first day alone.

 Aerial view shows a flooded area of Capela de Santana, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil
South America's largest country has suffered a string of recent extreme weather eventsImage: Carlos Fabal/AFP/Getty Images

The National Weather Institute said the region was reeling from the effects of a natural weather phenomenon called El Nino.

In Brazil, El Nino has historically caused droughts in the north and intense rainfall in the south.

lo/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)