At least 39 dead as cyclone hits Brazil’s southernmost state

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – At least 39 people have died and nine remain missing after a cyclone battered Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, flooding homes and swelling rivers, local authorities said on Thursday.

All those not yet counted are from the small town of Mucum, one of the hardest hit by the floods, where 14 deaths were reported. Nearby cities such as Roca Sales and Cruzeiro do Sul also recorded multiple victims.

Governor Eduardo Leite declared a state of public disaster and canceled statewide parades meant to celebrate Brazil’s Independence Day on Thursday.

“We mobilized to rescue the victims and rebuild everything that was destroyed by the storm,” Leite wrote on social network X.

According to the government of Rio Grande do Sul, heavy rains caused by the extratropical cyclone affected 80 cities and left more than 2,300 people homeless and more than 3,900 displaced.

In addition to the 39 deaths 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 hold” to travel there.

Independent weather forecasters MetSul and Climatempo warned that Rio Grande do Sul is expected to receive more heavy rain on Thursday and Friday.

Due to climate change, episodes of heavy rain are becoming more frequent and more intense. That’s because warmer air holds more moisture, so storm clouds are “heavier” before they eventually burst.

The floods in southern Brazil are just the latest in recent natural disasters in Latin America’s largest nation.

More than 50 people have been killed in São Paulo state this year after massive rains caused landslides and floods. The states of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia have also suffered similar disasters recently, leaving hundreds dead.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Josie Kao)

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