Deadly Floods Devastate Southern Brazil with Over 78 Confirmed Deaths and Thousands Displaced

Porto Alegre, Brazil – Severe flooding caused by heavy rains in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has led to a tragic death toll of at least 78 people, as reported by local authorities on Sunday. The devastating floods have also displaced over 115,000 individuals in the affected region.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, along with key members of his cabinet, arrived in Rio Grande do Sul to coordinate rescue and reconstruction efforts with local officials. In a press conference, President Lula emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating that bureaucratic obstacles will not hinder the recovery process.

State governor Eduardo Leite described the current situation as akin to a war zone, emphasizing the need for post-war reconstruction measures to address the widespread devastation caused by the floods. Volunteers have played a crucial role in ongoing rescue operations, utilizing boats, jet skis, and even swimming to assist those in distress.

Fabiano Saldanha, a resident of Porto Alegre, recounted how he and his friends used jet skis to rescue approximately 50 individuals stranded by the floodwaters on the city’s islands. The death toll is expected to rise further, with 105 people reported missing on Sunday, an increase from the previous day’s tally.

The state civil defense authority is also investigating whether an additional four deaths can be attributed to the storms, highlighting the extensive impact of the severe weather conditions. Flooding has affected over two-thirds of the state’s nearly 500 cities, resulting in the displacement of a significant portion of the population.

Roads and bridges have been destroyed, landslides triggered, and a dam at a hydroelectric power plant partially collapsed due to the relentless rains. As a result, more than 400,000 people were left without electricity, and nearly a third of the state’s residents faced water shortages on Sunday evening.

In the midst of the crisis, stories of survival and resilience have emerged, such as that of Kaeli Moraes, who, along with her family, was rescued from their flooded home in Porto Alegre. The city’s airport halted all flights as the Guaiba lake overflowed, recording its highest water level on record.

Meanwhile, volunteers in the city of Canoas, near Porto Alegre, saved 76-year-old Julio Manichesque, who had been stranded on the roof of his home for days. Despite the immense challenges posed by the flooding, acts of kindness and solidarity have shone through in the face of adversity.

During his weekly address at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Rio Grande do Sul, underscoring the global solidarity in the wake of the natural disaster. The road to recovery remains long and arduous, but the spirit of unity and compassion displayed in the midst of the crisis offers hope for a brighter tomorrow.