Death toll hits 143 from Brazil’s ‘worst-ever’ weather catastrophe


Governor Eduardo Leite said this week it will take nearly 19 billion reais ($3.7 billion) to rebuild Rio Grande do Sul after the floods….reports Asian Lite News

The death toll rose to 143 from the worst extreme weather to ever hit south Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, with 125 people missing and more than 600,000 evacuated, the Civil Defence agency said.

In two weeks of record rainfall that has unleashed flooding and mudslides across the state, 446 towns have witnessed dramatic scenes of survivors rescued from floodwaters, including in the state capital Porto Alegre, where the Guaiba river burst its banks, inundating more than half of the city.

Downpours began on April 29 and continued on Sunday, erasing hopes of floodwaters receding, and raising the number of the displaced from about 441,000 on Saturday to 618,550 on Sunday.

The National Institute of Meteorology has forecast more heavy rains through Monday in Brazil’s southernmost state, which borders on Argentina and Uruguay.

Governor Eduardo Leite said this week it will take nearly 19 billion reais ($3.7 billion) to rebuild Rio Grande do Sul after the floods.

As search and rescue operations continue amidst the relentless rainfall, authorities fear the death toll and displacement numbers will continue to climb in what is being described as the worst extreme weather event to ever strike the region.

Col. Jose Carlos Sallet, subcommander of Rio Grande do Sul Military Firefighters, said that approximately 1,000 firefighters are working on rescue missions, reported CNN.

“When the rain stops, they have been doing short operations to save as many people as possible. Yesterday (Saturday) were we able to intensify operations,” Sallet said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also visited Rio Grande do Sul for a second time on Sunday, accompanied by Defence Minister Jose Mucio, Finance Minister Fernando Haddad and Environment Minister Marina Silva, among others, according to Al Jazeera.

The leader and his team surveyed the flooded streets of the state capital, Porto Alegre, from a helicopter.

Moreover, some of the images showed muddy brown waters rising as high as rooftops in some areas, while rescue teams were out with inflatable rafts, taking people and pets on board.

Governor Eduardo Leite declared a state of emergency as the region grapples with the aftermath of the catastrophic weather event.

“We are dealing with the worst disaster in [our] history,” Governor Leite lamented, acknowledging the grim reality that the death toll is expected to rise further as rescue efforts continue.

In recent years, Rio Grande do Sul has been increasingly hit by extreme weather events and at least 54 people died in the state in September after it endured a sub-tropical cyclone, according to CNN.

The climate crisis, caused primarily by humans burning fossil fuels, is supercharging extreme weather globally, making many events more intense and more frequent.

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World Bank provides $125 mn in emergency support

The World Bank is providing emergency support to the state of Rio Grande do Sul, heavily impacted by recent rains and floods. Approximately $125 million (around RD 625 million) in resources from ongoing projects are already available for immediate reallocation.

The funds come from the projects “Urban Resilience Program in Southern Brazil”, “Revitalization Program for the Central Area of Porto Alegre”, and “Support Program for the New Bolsa Familia”. In addition, teams from the institution are providing technical assistance in damage assessment, resource prioritization, and funds deployment.

In addition, the institution is talking to the federal, state and municipal governments and the Regional Development Bank of the Far South (BRDE) about making new resources available on an accelerated basis. These resources will be used to finance recovery and provide technical assistance in structuring what is being called a “Marshall Plan” for rebuilding the state, including developing urban resilience and flood mitigation structures.

“The World Bank stands in solidarity with the population of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, so affected by the recent disaster,” said Sophie Naudeau, Acting Director and Operations Manager of the World Bank for Brazil. “We have extensive experience in crisis management and reconstruction linked to natural disasters in several countries around the world and we are bringing this knowledge to bear on the state’s rapid recovery. We are also ready to work together with the competent authorities to prevent future disasters like this from causing so much personal and material damage,” added Naudeau.

Disasters like the one in Rio Grande do Sul are clear examples of the need for greater preparation for future climate-related events, which tend to be more frequent. Recently, the World Bank approved a new set of crisis response tools to allow countries to quickly redirect unused resources in their portfolio to make emergency relief easier and faster. (ANI/WAM)

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