Brazil's flood death toll approaches 90 as rescue efforts continue among Porto Alegre's skyscrapers

Porto Alegre – From top to bottom, rescuers searched buildings in Porto Alegre looking for residents trapped in apartments or on rooftops. unprecedented flooding turned the streets of the Brazilian metropolis into rivers. In the state capital's Sarandi district, firefighters first evacuated people who had taken shelter on the roofs of apartment buildings, then moved in for those on higher floors.

“Now we are evacuating those on the second and third floors,” Daniel Batista da Rocha, a firefighter from the flood-hit southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, told AFP on Sunday midway through the search. But the task is complex in a city with many tall buildings, wide avenues and around 1.4 million inhabitants.

“There is a lot of water… it is deep. The (rescue) boats sail at the same height as the power lines. So to navigate we have to cut the lines,” said Rocha, dressed in a wetsuit. life jacket and yellow helmet.

Flooding due to heavy rain in Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul
A drone view shows the flooded city center of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 5, 2024.

Renan Mattos/REUTERS


Floods in the state had claimed the lives of at least 83 people by early Monday morning, according to civil defense officials. Dozens of others were missing and some 115,000 had to leave their homes.

In addition to Porto Alegre, hundreds of towns and villages were affected, leaving thousands of people without access to drinking water, electricity, telephone services or the internet.

The clock was ticking for rescuers to reach those still missing in the worst climate disaster that will one day happen to Brazil's rich southern region. According to the Porto Alegre mayor's office, the level of the Guaiba River that runs past the city reached about 5.5 meters on Sunday – higher than the previous record set during historic floods in 1941.

Volunteers assisted professional rescuers involved in the search.

Flooding due to heavy rain in Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul
People react after being rescued from flooding in Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, May 4, 2024.

Renan Mattos/REUTERS


“We do our best to help. Everyone helps in their own way,” said volunteer Luis Eduardo da Silva, 32, from Porto Alegre.

His mission was to collect essential supplies such as life jackets, water and fuel and bring them to those in need. He said the deliveries took place during the day, when it is “easier to locate people” amid the destruction.

“It gets complicated at night,” Silva said.

Brazil Heavy rainfall
People evacuate on a surfboard from a neighborhood flooded by heavy rain, in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 4, 2024.

Carlos Macedo/AP


People also delivered bottled water and food to makeshift distribution points around the city, including gas stations.

The state government has appealed for donations of mattresses, sheets and personal hygiene products. Many neighbors lent boats and jet skis to support the rescue efforts.

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