published : 2023-09-07

Flooding in southern Brazil leaves at least 31 dead and 1,600 displaced

Over 60 cities in Rio Grande do Sul state have been battered by devastating storm since Monday night

Aerial view of flooded cities in southern Brazil taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro

Flooding from a cyclone in southern Brazil has wreaked havoc, causing widespread destruction and claiming the lives of at least 31 people. The relentless storm has left over 60 cities in Rio Grande do Sul state devastated, displacing 1,600 people in its wake.

Governor Eduardo Leite described the event as 'absolutely out of the ordinary,' emphasizing the extent of the disaster that has struck not only riverside communities but entire cities. Areas once bustling with life have now been completely compromised.

Heart-wrenching videos captured by rescue teams tell a tale of desperate families seeking help from the rooftops of their homes as rivers overflowed their banks. The situation became dire as swiftly flowing rivers transformed once familiar avenues into treacherous torrents.

The death toll has climbed to 31, with an additional 1,600 individuals now homeless. The city of Mucum, home to 50,000 residents, witnessed a particularly devastating blow. Rescuers uncovered 15 bodies in a single house, and the aftermath revealed buildings swept away down to the ground level. Eerie imagery of a sheep hanging from an electrical line bears witness to the alarming water levels reached during the flood.

Rescue team assisting stranded residents on the rooftop of their home in Rio Grande do Sul state taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Marcos Antonio Gomes, a resident of Mucum, described the rapid rise in water levels, stating that it rose 6½ feet an hour. Standing atop a mound of debris, he expressed the utter devastation, saying, 'We have nothing left. Not even clothes.'

Realizing the gravity of the situation, the city hall of Mucum advised residents to gather supplies to sustain themselves for the next 72 hours, indicating the prolonged hardships they may face. Gomes, a 55-year-old businessman, shared his bleak outlook, expecting more flooding in the future and acknowledging the inability to continue living in the area.

Reports suggest that many victims lost their lives due to electrical shock or being trapped in vehicles. Tragically, a woman was swept away during a rescue attempt. Search and rescue teams have been diligently working in the Taquari Valley, the epicenter of the destruction, while expanding their efforts to the Rio Pardo Valley as well.

Despite the initial focus on these areas, the threat of heavy rains looms over the state's center-south region, raising concerns about further damage. Authorities have issued three flooding alerts for the Jacui, Cai, and Taquari rivers.

Devastation in Mucum, Brazil, as debris from destroyed houses fills the landscape taken with a Nikon D850

This devastating cyclone follows another that struck Rio Grande do Sul in June, claiming the lives of 16 people and causing significant destruction across 40 cities.

The impact of this recent catastrophe serves as a somber reminder of the vulnerability faced by communities in the face of extreme weather events. The resilience of the affected regions will be tested once again as they seek to rebuild and recover from this tragic event.