Flooding caused by a cyclone in southern Brazil swept away homes, left motorists trapped in their vehicles and flooded streets in several cities, causing at least 31 deaths and leaving 1,600 people homeless, authorities said Wednesday.
More than 60 cities have been affected by the storm since Monday night, and the governor of Rio Grande do Sul state, Eduardo Leitesaid that the death toll is the highest caused by a climate phenomenon in the region.
“The flyover we just made shows the dimension of an event that is absolutely out of the ordinary”Leite said in a video posted on the state’s social media accounts. “Not only riverside communities were affected, but entire cities that were completely compromised”.
Videos recorded by rescue teams on Tuesday and published by the G1 news site showed families on the roofs of their homes calling for help as rivers overflowed. Some areas were completely isolated after wide avenues became fast-flowing rivers.
Leite said Wednesday that The death toll was 31, and state emergency authorities said at least 1,600 people were left homeless..
In Mucum, a city of about 50,000 inhabitants, rescuers found 15 dead in the same home. After the storm passed, residents discovered a path of destruction along the river, with most buildings leveled to ground level. The images showed a sheep hanging from a power line, indicating how high the water had risen.
“The water came very quickly, it was rising 6.5 feet per hour”narrated one of the inhabitants of Mucum, Marcos Antonio Gomes, who was standing on a pile of rubble. “We have nothing left. “We don’t even have clothes.”
In a sign that people could be stranded for some time, Mucum City Council advised residents to find supplies to cover their needs for the next 72 hours.
Gomes, a 55-year-old businessman, said it was the fourth time in 15 years that his house has been damaged by flooding. He indicated that this was one of the worst, and that he anticipates more flooding in the future.
“There is no way we can live here. This will happen again. “We have to get out of here”he expressed.
Many of the victims died from electrocution or trapped in vehicles, the G1 news site reported. A woman died when she was swept away during a rescue attempt.
Search and rescue teams have focused on the Taquari Valley, about 30 miles northwest of the state capital, Porto Alegre, where most of the casualties and damage were reported. However, on Wednesday morning efforts were expanded westward and helicopters were sent to the Rio Pardo valley.
More heavy rain is expected in the south-central region of the state, although the most affected areas may not be affected. The authorities maintained three flood alerts on Wednesday in the Jacui, Cai and Taquari rivers.
Rio Grande do Sul was hit by another cyclone in June, killing 16 people and causing damage to 40 cities, many of them around Porto Alegre.