Monday, July 22, 2024
HomeWorld NewsSouthern Brazil is still reeling from massive flooding as it faces risk...

Southern Brazil is still reeling from massive flooding as it faces risk from new storms

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — As major floods engulfed entire cities in the northern part of the Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state last week, meteorologist Estael Sias knew the water would drain into capital Porto Alegre’s metropolitan region and that she would need to find a safe place.

So she, her husband, three children, and two dogs left everything behind. Less than 24 hours later, water started filling her neighborhood in Canoas, now one of the state’s most affected cities.

“My house was inundated,” Sias recalled, her voice cracking. “And it was very hard to leave my house, to make my family leave.” She said she could protect her close family, but not others who insisted on staying put. “It has been very distressing and still is. I don’t know how it will be when I return home.”

Authorities in southern Brazil rushed Wednesday to rescue survivors of massive flooding that has killed at least 100 people, but some residents refused to leave belongings behind while others returned to evacuated homes despite the risk of new storms.

Heavy rains and flooding in Rio Grande do Sul since last week also have left 130 people missing, authorities said. More than 230,000 have been displaced, and much of the region has been isolated by the floodwaters.

Storms were expected in the state on Wednesday evening, with hail and wind gusts reaching up to 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph), according to the national meteorology institute’s afternoon bulletin. And the institute forecasts a cold front this weekend with additional rains, to be particularly intense in the state’s north and east.

In Porto Alegre, about 300 people were sheltering at the local club Gremio Nautico Uniao, based in the upscale, little-harmed neighborhood of Moinhos de Vento. Dozens lay on mattresses as volunteers brought boxes filled with feijoada — a typical Brazilian bean-and-pork stew.

Heitor da Silva was among them, having heeded authorities’ warnings. Still, he’s anxious about his future.

“I only took my documents, three shirts, two pieces of underwear and my flip-flops. All the rest is gone,” said da Silva, 68. “I already had very little, but that stayed there. When I go home, there will be nothing. Then what?”

Staffers of the state’s civil defense agency told The Associated Press they have been struggling to persuade residents of the city of Eldorado do Sul, one of the hardest hit by the floods, to leave their homes. It is located beside Porto Alegre, near the center of the state’s coastline. At least four people declined to evacuate.

A flyover of Eldorado do Sul in a military helicopter showed hundreds of houses submerged, with only their roofs visible. Residents were using small boards, surfboards and personal watercraft to move around. Mayor Ernani de Freitas told local journalists that the city “will be totally evacuated.”

“It will take at least a year to recover,” he said.

Rio Grande do Sul’s Gov. Eduardo Leite, speaking at a news conference late Tuesday, appealed to residents to stay out of harm’s way, as the anticipated downpour may cause more severe flooding across the state.

“It isn’t the time to return home,” he said.

The civil defense agency’s own urgent warning asking displaced residents not to return to flooded areas also stressed the risk of disease transmission.

Army Gen. Marcelo Zucco, one of the coordinators of rescue operations, told the AP his team is working at full speed before heavy rains that are forecast to hit the Porto Alegre area this weekend. Moderate rain was falling Wednesday afternoon in the city.

“We hope the next rains are not like those we saw, but there’s no way to be sure there won’t be trouble ahead of us,” Zucco said.

“At this moment we are focusing on finishing rescue operations and starting logistical support to the population. That’s bringing water, medication, food and transportation for the sick to some hospital,” the general added.

He also said some improvement in conditions for the day helped his men finally access some areas by land.

Unusually heavy rains have also inundated parts of Uruguay, causing rivers to overflow in the country’s east and displacing nearly 1,000 people, authorities said, with rescuers reporting that they had evacuated 200 stranded people, helped by the army. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the rescue service said flash floods had damaged over a dozen roads and left thousands of people without electricity.

Over the weekend, rain in northern Rio Grande do Sul could prompt renewed swelling of rivers that are already causing widespread flooding around the Patos lagoon, where the Porto Alegre municipal region is located, said Sias, the meteorologist in Rio Grande do Sul, who works for a forecasting service based there.

“We will remain on this level of alert at least until the end of the month,” she said.

A report by the National Confederation of Municipalities estimates damages at 4.6 billion reais ($930 million) in nearly 80% of Rio Grande do Sul’s municipalities.

Gov. Leite has said that the enormous impact will require something akin to the Marshall Plan for Europe’s post-WWII recovery. Already the state has asked the federal government to suspend debt payments and create a fund for the southern region.

On Tuesday, Congress passed a decree declaring a state of calamity in Rio Grande do Sul until the end of the year, allowing the federal government to quickly allocate money to mitigate the catastrophe and rebuild regions affected by the floods, bypassing a spending cap. The vote united supporters and opponents of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government.

“There is no limit to the public spending necessary to resolve the problem of the calamity that today is ravaging Rio Grande do Sul state,” Planning and Budget Minister Simone Tebet told Radio Gaucha in an interview.


Sá Pessoa reported from Sao Paulo. AP videojournalist Lucas Dumphreys contributed from Porto Alegre and writer Isabel DeBre from Buenos Aires..

Source link

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments