In a tragic event, a cyclone has swept through southern Brazil, resulting in the loss of at least 13 lives and the displacement of thousands of people, as confirmed by authorities on Sunday. The region experienced torrential rain and powerful winds on Thursday and Friday, causing extensive damage across numerous towns in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, including the capital, Porto Alegre. This cyclone-induced devastation is the latest addition to a series of weather-related disasters that have struck South America’s largest country.
Additional casualties were discovered in the heavily affected coastal town of Caraa, bringing the storm’s death toll to 13, according to the state civil defense agency. As of Sunday, three individuals remain missing in Caraa, following a revision from Saturday’s count of 20 missing persons.
The town of Tramandai also suffered significant impact, with official reports indicating wind speeds of up to 101.9 kilometers (60 miles) per hour.
Tragically, among the victims is a four-month-old baby, as reported by local media, which also broadcast distressing footage of powerful winds sweeping a car into a cemetery.
A woman in the town of Sao Leopoldo shared her harrowing experience, stating, “The water came up to our waist inside the house. Thank God, the firemen arrived quickly and got us out on boats. It seemed like a nightmare.” The account was published by the newspaper Estadao, which did not disclose the woman’s name.
Helicopters were utilized to evacuate several individuals, while nearly 5,000 people found themselves with damaged houses. As of Sunday, approximately 84,000 residents were without power. Authorities had already evacuated around 80 individuals from high-risk areas as a precautionary measure.
Governor Eduardo Leite of Rio Grande do Sul conducted an aerial assessment of the hardest-hit areas on Saturday, accompanied by government officials and rescue teams. In Caraa, the governor visited a community center that had been serving as a shelter for hundreds of people whose homes were severely impacted by the storm. In a statement, Governor Leite expressed deep concern over the situation in Caraa and emphasized the need for prompt and coordinated efforts to identify affected areas and provide support to those in need.
State firefighters in Rio Grande do Sul have carried out approximately 2,400 rescues over the past two days, prioritizing the protection and preservation of human lives. Governor Leite emphasized the objectives of rescuing isolated individuals, locating the missing, and supporting affected families.
The city of Sao Leopoldo, located half an hour from Porto Alegre, experienced an unprecedented rainfall of 246 mm (9.7 inches) within 18 hours, as stated by Porto Alegre Mayor Ary Jose Vanazzi. The city, with a population of 240,000, had never witnessed such extreme precipitation in its history.
Flooded streets persisted in the towns of Novo Hamburgo, Lindolfo Collor, and Sao Leopoldo on Sunday. However, as the rain subsided, soldiers were able to conduct rescue operations in Novo Hamburgo.
Unfortunately, further rainfall and cold temperatures are anticipated in the middle of the upcoming week, potentially exacerbating the plight of those already affected. Brazil has faced a series of devastating weather disasters in recent years, which experts attribute to the intensifying impacts of climate change.
In February, torrential rain triggered floods and landslides in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, claiming the lives of at least 65 people.