Death toll from southern Brazil rainfall rises to 75, many still missing

    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 75, local authorities said on Sunday, with tens of thousands of people displaced.

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

    The death toll could still substantially increase as 103 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 six deaths were related to the storms.

    It was raining on Sunday morning in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, and in other parts of the state, which could make rescue efforts even harder. Flooding from storms in the past few days has affected about two thirds of the nearly 500 towns and cities in the state, which borders Uruguay and Argentina, leaving more than 88,000 displaced.

    Floods have destroyed roads and bridges in several cities. The rains also have triggered landslides and the partial collapse of a dam at a small hydroelectric power plant.

    In Porto Alegre, the Guaiba lake broke its banks by more than two meters, hitting the highest water level on records, according to the national geological service. Porto Alegre’s international airport has suspended all flights since Friday.

    State Governor Eduardo Leite told reporters on Saturday evening that Rio Grande do Sul would need a “Marshall Plan” to recover from the storms and its consequences, referring to the U.S.-led plan for Europe’s economic recovery after World War Two.

    In the city of Canoas, near Porto Alegre, Julio Manichesque, 76, was rescued by volunteers after he had stayed since Friday on the roof of the house where he has lived for 52 years.

    “I have never seen that much water,” Manichesque said.


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