Southern Brazil has been hit by the worst floods in more than 80 years. At least 39 people have died

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A man wades through an area flooded by heavy rains, in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on May 3, (AP)

SAO PAULO, May 4, (AP): Heavy rains in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul killed 39 people, with another 68 still missing, the state civil defense agency said Friday, as record-breaking floods devastated cities and forced thousands to leave their homes.
It was the fourth such environmental disaster in a year, following floods in July, September and November 2023 that killed 75 people in total.
The flooding statewide has surpassed that seen during a historic 1941 deluge, according to the Brazilian Geological Service. In some cities, water levels were at their highest since records began nearly 150 years ago, the agency said.
On Thursday, a dam at a hydroelectric plant between the cities of Bento Goncalves and Cotipora partially collapsed and entire cities in the Taquari River valley, like Lajeado and Estrela, were completely overtaken by water. In the town of Feliz, 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the state capital, Porto Alegre, a massively swollen river swept away a bridge that connected it with the neighboring city of Linha Nova.
Operators reported electricity, communications and water cuts across the state. More than 24,000 people had to leave their homes, according to the civil defense agency.
Without internet, telephone service or electricity, residents struggled to provide updates or information to their relatives living in other states. Helicopters flew continually over the cities while stranded families with children awaited rescue on the rooftops.
Isolete Neumann, 58, lives in the city of Lajeado in the Taquari River valley and told The Associated Press she has never before seen a scenario like the one she is now experiencing.
“People were making barricades in front of hospitals with sand and gravel. It felt like a horror movie,” she said by phone. Some people in her region were so desperate, she added, that they threw themselves into the water currents.
Neumann’s own neighborhood wasn’t inundated, but has no running water and she hasn’t showered since Tuesday. She said she’s collecting rainwater in a basin to be able to cook. A clothing store she owns in the city’s central area is flooded, she added.
“I don’t even know how it must be. There must be nothing left.”

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