Death toll from southern Brazil rainfall rises to 78, many still missing

PORTO ALEGRE/CANOAS/SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – The death toll from heavy rains that have caused flooding in Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has risen to at least 78, local authorities said on Sunday, with more than 115,000 people displaced.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived in Rio Grande do Sul on Sunday morning with most members of his cabinet to discuss rescue and reconstruction efforts with local authorities.

“Bureaucracy will not stand in our way, stopping us from recovering the state’s greatness,” Lula said at a press conference.

“It is a war scenario, and will need post-war measures,” state governor Eduardo Leite added.

Volunteers using boats, jet skis – and even swimming – have assisted in ongoing rescue efforts. In the state capital Porto Alegre, Fabiano Saldanha said he and three friends have used jet skis to save about 50 people from flood waters since Friday in islands that are part of the city.

“The only thing we hear when we enter a street is ‘help,’ ‘help,'” Saldanha said.

The death toll could still substantially increase as 105 people were reported missing on Sunday, up from about 70 the prior day, according to the state civil defense authority. It also said it was investigating whether another four deaths were related to the storms.

Flooding from storms in the past few days has affected more than two thirds of the nearly 500 cities in the state, which borders Uruguay and Argentina, leaving more than 115,000 people displaced, according to authorities.

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