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Brazil Floods Death Toll Rises to 78, Over 115,000 Displaced

The death toll from the catastrophic flooding in Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has climbed to at least 78, local authorities said Sunday, with over 115,000 people forced to flee their homes due to the heavy rains and rising waters.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived in the stricken region on Sunday morning with most of his cabinet ministers to assess the damage and coordinate relief efforts with local officials. “It is a war scenario and will need post-war measures,” Rio Grande do Sul’s governor Eduardo Leite stated gravely.

Lula vowed that bureaucracy would not hinder the state’s recovery. “Bureaucracy will not stand in our way, stopping us from recovering the state’s greatness,” he declared at a press conference.

As rescuers race against time, the situation remains dire, with 105 people still reported missing as of Sunday, up from around 70 the previous day. Authorities are also investigating if another four deaths were storm-related.

The catastrophic flooding caused by days of heavy storms has impacted over two-thirds of the nearly 500 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Uruguay and Argentina. Roads, bridges, homes, and other infrastructure have been destroyed or submerged across wide swaths of the state.

In Porto Alegre’s capital, floodwaters from the overflowing Guaiba River inundated entire neighbourhoods after reaching the highest level on record. The city’s international airport has remained closed since Friday due to the inundation.

As of Sunday evening, over 400,000 residents lack power, and nearly a third lack water access. Rescue teams around Brazil have joined local volunteers in frantic efforts to reach stranded survivors. Many have used boats, jet skis, and even swimming to pluck people from rooftops and upper floors.

“The only thing we hear when we enter a street is ‘help, help’,” said Fabiano Saldanha, part of a group that has used jet skis to save about 50 people in Porto Alegre since Friday.

Kaeli Moraes recounted being rescued with her family just as the waters were nearing the second floor of their home. “There was flooding in September, then in November, and now this one. It is only getting worse,” she said from a makeshift shelter.

In Canoas, near Porto Alegre, 76-year-old Julio Manichesque was pulled from the rooftop of his home of 52 years by volunteers after being stranded since Friday. “I have never seen that much water,” he said.

As the crisis unfolded, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Rio Grande do Sul during his weekly Vatican address on Sunday. Authorities warn the death toll could still rise substantially in the wake of the region’s worst flooding disaster in recent memory.

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