Death toll rises to 39, 70 missing after heavy rains in southern Brazil

Photo credit: Brazil Asir Force

The death toll from heavy rains in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has risen to 39 with some 70 people still missing, the Civil Defense agency said Friday, Xinhua reported.

The heavy rain was one of the worst climate tragedies that has so far affected 235 municipalities, including the state capital of Porto Alegre, according to the agency.

The state has seen persisting rainfall since Monday, causing rivers to swell, destroying bridges, and putting the city of Porto Alegre, with a population of more than 1.4 million, on alert.

Heavy rains also spread to the neighboring state of Santa Catarina, where a person was killed in the flooding and landslides.

Recognizing the calamity, the Brazilian government has sent equipment and financial aid to Rio Grande do Sul.

More than 24,000 people were displaced by the disaster, according to the agency.

"These will be difficult days. We ask people to leave their homes. Our goal is to save lives. Things will be lost, but we must preserve lives. Our priority is to rescue people. As for the rest, we'll find the way ahead," Governor Eduardo Leite said.

Leite confirmed that this is "the biggest disaster in the state" and that Rio Grande do Sul is in a "state of war."

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