Brazilian Floods Death Toll Rises to 78 with Thousands Displaced

Porto Alegre, Brazil – Heavy rains in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul have resulted in devastating flooding, with the death toll rising to at least 78 and more than 115,000 people displaced. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, along with members of his cabinet, visited the affected areas to discuss rescue and reconstruction efforts with local officials. The situation has been described as a “war scenario” by state governor Eduardo Leite, emphasizing the urgency of post-war measures to address the crisis.

Volunteers have been instrumental in ongoing rescue efforts, using boats, jet skis, and even swimming to reach those stranded by the floodwaters. In Porto Alegre, Fabiano Saldanha and his friends have rescued approximately 50 people using jet skis in the city’s inundated islands. The state civil defense authority reported 105 people missing, indicating the likelihood of the death toll rising further.

The floods have wreaked havoc on infrastructure, destroying roads and bridges, triggering landslides, and causing the partial collapse of a dam at a hydroelectric power plant. More than 400,000 people were without power, and nearly a third of the state’s population faced water shortages. The Guaiba lake in Porto Alegre breached its banks, reaching record-high water levels, leading to the suspension of all flights at the city’s airport.

In the midst of the crisis, stories of survival and resilience have emerged. Kaeli Moraes and her family were rescued from their flooded home just in time, as the water reached dangerously high levels. Meanwhile, in Canoas, 76-year-old Julio Manichesque was saved by volunteers after spending days on the roof of his house. The outpouring of support and assistance from volunteers and emergency responders has been critical in the face of this disaster.

During his weekly address, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the people of Rio Grande do Sul, offering prayers for those affected by the catastrophic floods. The scale of the devastation underscores the urgent need for coordinated efforts to provide relief and support to the thousands impacted by the disaster. As rescue operations continue and communities grapple with the aftermath of the flooding, the spirit of resilience and solidarity shines through in the face of adversity.