Brazil floods, worst in nation’s history, kill at least 57

Sao Paulo: Heavy rains in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul killed at least 60 people, with another 101 reported missing, the local authorities said, as record-breaking floods devastated cities and forced thousands to leave their homes.

At least 155 people were injured, while damage from the rains forced more than 80,000 people from their homes. Approximately 15,000 took refuge in schools, gymnasiums and other temporary shelters. Rio Grande do Sul’s civil defence authority said nearly two-thirds of the 497 cities in the state, which borders Uruguay and Argentina, had been affected.

A soldier helps a woman evacuate from a neighbourhood in Canoas flooded by heavy rain.

A soldier helps a woman evacuate from a neighbourhood in Canoas flooded by heavy rain.Credit: AP

The flooding statewide has surpassed that seen during a historic 1941 deluge, according to the Brazilian Geological Service. In some cities, water levels were at their highest since records began nearly 150 years ago, the agency said.

On Thursday, a dam at a hydroelectric plant between the cities of Bento Goncalves and Cotipora partially collapsed and entire cities in the Taquari River valley, like Lajeado and Estrela, were completely overtaken by water.

In the town of Feliz, 80 kilometres from the state capital, Porto Alegre, a massively swollen river swept away a bridge that connected it with the neighbouring city of Linha Nova.

Operators reported electricity, communications and water cuts across the state. Without internet, telephone service or electricity, residents struggled to provide updates or information to their relatives living in other states. Helicopters flew continually over the cities while stranded families with children awaited rescue on the rooftops.

“Never before in the history of Brazil had there been such a quantity of rain in one single location.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Isolete Neumann, 58, lives in the city of Lajeado in the Taquari River valley said she has never seen a scenario like the one she is now experiencing.

“People were making barricades in front of hospitals with sand and gravel. It felt like a horror movie,” she said by phone. Some people in her region were so desperate, she added, that they threw themselves into the water currents.

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