No fewer than 39 people have died and nine remain missing after a cyclone battered Brazil’s southernmost state Rio Grande do Sul, flooding homes and swelling rivers, local authorities said on Thursday.
All those not yet accounted for are from the small town of Mucum, one of the hardest hit by the floods, where 14 deaths have been reported. Nearby cities such as Roca Sales and Cruzeiro do Sul also registered multiple casualties.
Governor Eduardo Leite declared a state of public calamity and canceled statewide parades meant to celebrate Brazil’s Independence Day on Thursday.
“We’ve mobilized to rescue the victims and rebuild everything that was destroyed by the storm,” Leite wrote on social media network X.
According to the Rio Grande do Sul government, heavy rains caused by the extratropical cyclone have affected 80 cities and left more than 2,300 people homeless and over 3,900 displaced.
In addition to the 39 fatalities in Rio Grande do Sul, one person died in neighboring Santa Catarina state while driving through the city of Jupia when a tree fell on their car. Winds there exceeded 110 km per hour (68.4 miles per hour).
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will travel to India for the G20 summit later in the day, said the federal government would fully support the region and put Vice President Geraldo Alckmin “on standby” to travel there.
Independent weather forecasters MetSul and Climatempo cautioned Rio Grande do Sul is expected to receive more heavy showers on Thursday and Friday.
Due to climate change, episodes of heavy rainfall are becoming more common and more intense. That is because warmer air holds more moisture, so storm clouds are “heavier” before they eventually break.
The floods in southern Brazil are just the latest of recent natural disasters in Latin America’s largest nation.
More than 50 people were killed in Sao Paulo state this year after massive downpours caused landslides and flooding. Rio de Janeiro and Bahia states have also suffered similar disasters recently, leaving hundreds dead.