Massive Brazil Flooding Kills 90

( – The catastrophe unfolding in southern Brazil, particularly in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, has escalated into a monumental crisis, marking one of the most severe climate disasters the region has ever faced. The death toll has alarmingly risen to 90 individuals, while the number of people displaced by the relentless rainfall has surpassed 155,000. The severity of the situation was underscored when Porto Alegre, the state’s capital and fifth-largest city in Brazil, saw its main airport shut down due to extensive flooding.

Recent images captured at the Porto Alegre airport, a major transportation hub, depict a scene of chaos: the terminal completely submerged and a cargo plane stranded in a vast waterlogged area. The floodwaters have not only wreaked havoc on infrastructure but have also led to significant human suffering, with at least 361 people reported injured and 131 missing.

Governor Eduardo Leite has described the disaster as the state’s most catastrophic climate event to date. In an effort to manage the crisis, Leite declared a state of emergency across 397 towns and cities out of the state’s 497. The staggering impact of the floods is evident in Porto Alegre, where the Guaíba River reached a historic high of 5.33 meters early Sunday, surpassing previous records set during the 1941 floods.

The city, home to 1.4 million people, has been left virtually incapacitated, lacking essential supplies of water, electricity, and food. The aftermath of the flood has been vividly described by local journalist Rodrigo Lopes, who posted videos of himself navigating the flooded streets of Porto Alegre by canoe, moving past inundated buildings and a silent cityscape usually bustling with activity.

The crisis has also impacted the state’s transportation network, with four major highways linking the capital to other regions blocked, complicating rescue and relief efforts. The sports community is not untouched; the stadiums of Porto Alegre’s major football clubs, Grêmio and Internacional, are submerged, prompting calls for the suspension of matches.

Juvir Costella, the state transport secretary, advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel, highlighting the widespread chaos. “The whole of Rio Grande do Sul is chaos,” he stated during a broadcast with Rádio Gaúcha.

The broader region has felt the disaster’s impact, with an estimated 1.3 million people affected overall. The Vale do Taquari, roughly 100 kilometers from Porto Alegre, has been particularly hard hit, with local photographer Jefferson Botega recounting scenes of extensive destruction, likening the damage to that of toys scattered by a giant hand.

In response to the crisis, Governor Leite has emphasized the need for solidarity and immediate action rather than assigning blame or politicizing the disaster. He has proposed a Marshall Plan-style aid package to facilitate recovery, labeling the situation as akin to a “post-war” scenario.

Yet, the response has not been without criticism. Local reports have pointed out a stark lack of investment in flood prevention measures in Porto Alegre, which has intensified the debate over the city’s preparedness and the broader implications of government inaction. Erika Hilton, a prominent politician, voiced on social media that while the disaster was unprecedented, better preparedness could have mitigated the severity of the impacts.

As the state braces for more adverse weather, with new storms and heavy rainfall predicted, the crisis shows little sign of abating. Authorities continue to warn of the potential for the floodwaters to spread to surrounding areas, prompting further evacuations and extending the period of hardship for the residents of Rio Grande do Sul.