A powerful extratropical cyclone has caused widespread devastation in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, leaving at least 21 people dead and thousands homeless. The storm, which hit on Monday, brought torrential rain, hail and strong winds, triggering floods and landslides in several cities.
Mucum: The worst-hit town
The town of Mucum, with a population of about 5,000 people, was the worst-hit by the cyclone. According to local authorities, 15 bodies were found in the town as the water receded, bringing the death toll to 21 in the state. Governor Eduardo Leite said that this was the deadliest weather-related event ever recorded in Rio Grande do Sul.
The Taquari river overflowed and flooded more than 85 percent of the town, forcing hundreds of residents to seek refuge on their rooftops or in shelters. Many people are still missing and feared dead. Mayor Mateus Trojan told Radio Gaucha that “the town of Mucum as we knew it no longer exists.”
Rescue operations and government response
The cyclone affected 67 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul, impacting more than 52,000 people, according to state authorities. About 6,000 people had to leave their homes due to the floods and landslides. Hundreds of firefighters, military police and civil defense personnel were deployed to assist with rescue operations, using helicopters to reach areas that were cut off by the water.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed his solidarity with the victims and said that the federal government was “ready to help.” He also announced that he would visit the region on Wednesday with a delegation of ministers and officials. Communications Minister Paulo Pimenta said that “there are many isolated families, many people still at risk.”
More rain and flooding expected
The weather forecast for Rio Grande do Sul indicates that more rain is expected from Thursday, raising the possibility of more flooding and damage. Authorities have warned residents to remain alert and follow safety recommendations. The state government has also declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone.
The neighboring state of Santa Catarina also reported one death due to the storm, according to news site G1. The cyclone is the latest in a series of extreme weather events that have hit Brazil this year, which experts say are likely worsened by climate change. In June, another cyclone killed 13 people and displaced thousands in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. In February, 65 people died in landslides caused by record flooding in the resort town of Sao Sebastiao, on the coast of Sao Paulo state.