Brazil floods death toll rises to 90, dozens still stranded

Rescuers rushed to evacuate people stranded by devastating floods across the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul on Tuesday, with 90 reported dead and desperate survivors seeking food and basic supplies.

Publication: 08.05.2024 - 14:46
Brazil floods death toll rises to 90, dozens still stranded
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On the outskirts of Eldorado do Sul, 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from the state capital of Porto Alegre, many people who left their homes were sleeping on the roadside and told Reuters they were going hungry. Entire families were leaving on foot, carrying belongings in backpacks and shopping carts.

"We've been without food for three days and we've only just got this blanket. I'm with people I don't even know, I don't know where my family is," said a young man who gave his name as Ricardo Junior.

The flooding has hampered rescue efforts, with dozens of people still waiting to be evacuated by boat or helicopter from stricken homes. Small boats crisscrossed the flooded town searching for survivors.

The state's Civil Defense agency said the death toll has risen to 90 with another four deaths being investigated, while 131 people are still unaccounted for and 155,000 are homeless.

Heavy rains that began last week have caused rivers to flood, inundating whole towns and destroying roads and bridges.

In Porto Alegre, a city of 1.3 million inhabitants on the Guaiba river, downtown streets were under water.

Porto Alegre residents faced empty supermarket shelves and closed gas stations, with shops rationing sales of mineral water. The city distributed water in trucks to hospitals and shelters.

The floods have also impacted water and electricity services, with more than 1.4 million affected overall, according to Brazil's Civil Defense.

Almost half a million people were without power in Porto Alegre and outlying towns as electricity companies cut off supplies for security reasons in flooded neighborhoods. National grid operator ONS said five hydroelectric dams and transmission lines were shut down due to the heavy rains.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on a government television program that the extent of the damage will not be known until the waters subside. He promised federal aid for the state in what is considered its worst ever climate disaster.

JP Morgan economists projected that the impact of the floods on Brazil's economy would be a modest dent in GDP growth and a marginal increase in inflation, mainly due to higher prices for rice that is largely produced in Rio Grande do Sul.

Besides destroying critical infrastructure, the heavy rains and flooding have left grains fields under water and killed livestock, interrupting the soy harvest and halting work at multiple meat plants.

The Rio Grande port is operating normally, the state's port authority said. A major port for grain exports, it has not been affected by a rise in the level of the Laguna dos Patos lagoon which the swollen Guaiba river runs into.

However, main access roads were impassable, disrupting grain deliveries to the port as trucks had to make a wide detour, exporters said.

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