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Floods leave at least 90 dead, 131 missing and thousands of victims in the Brazilian state of Río Grande do Sul

Rescue teams rushed to evacuate people trapped by devastating floods in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul on Tuesday. where at least 90 people diedthousands were left homeless and survivors desperately searched for food and basic supplies.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on a government television program that the extent of the damage will not be known until the waters recede. He promised federal aid to the state in which is considered the worst climate disaster in its history.

On the outskirts of Eldorado do Sul, 17 kilometers from the state capital, Porto Alegre, many people were sleeping on the side of the road and they said they were starving. Entire families left on foot, carrying their belongings in backpacks and shopping carts.

“We haven’t eaten for three days and we just got this blanket. I’m with people I don’t even know, I don’t know where my family is,” said a young man who gave his name as Ricardo Junior.

The Porto Alegre international airport suffers the consequences of the floods. Photo: Reuters/Wesley Santos

The floods have made rescue efforts difficult, and dozens of people are still waiting to be evacuated by boat or helicopter from the affected homes. Small boats scour the flooded city in search of survivors.

The state Civil Defense agency stated that the death toll had risen to 90 and that four more deaths were being investigated, while 131 people were still missing and 155,000 had been left homeless.

The heavy rains that began last week have caused rivers to overflow, flooding entire cities and destroying roads and bridges.

The rain is expected to ease on Thursday but continue over the weekend.

Climate experts attributed the extreme rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul to the confluence of a heat wave caused by the El Niño phenomenon this year, which warms the waters of the Pacific and brings rain to southern Brazil; a weaker cold front with rain and gales from the Antarctic; and unusual heat in the Atlantic that also increases humidity.

Global warming exacerbates these phenomena and intensifies the effects between these systems, making the weather unpredictablesaid Marcelo Schneider, researcher at the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet).

Residents of Rio Grande do Sul have been evacuated in military vehicles due to flooding. Photo: Reuters/Diego Vara

The inhabitants of Porto Alegre found themselves with empty supermarket shelves and closed gas stations, while stores rationed the sale of mineral water. The city distributed water by truck to hospitals and shelters.

Almost half a million people were left without electricity in Porto Alegre and peripheral cities, since the electricity companies cut off the supply for safety reasons in the flooded neighborhoods. The national grid operator, ONS, said five hydroelectric dams and transmission lines had been closed due to heavy rain.

The state oil company Petrobras declared that it had problems transporting diesel from its Canoas refinery, located in the metropolitan area of ​​Porto Alegre and seriously floodedaccording to a senior government official.

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