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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Teams in flood-ravaged southern Brazil scrambled Tuesday to deliver humanitarian aid to Porto Alegre and other inundated municipalities, where queues formed for drinking water as forecasters warned of more downpours.

The worst natural calamity ever to hit the state of Rio Grande do Sul has claimed at least 95 lives, with 372 people reported injured and 131 still missing, according to the civil defense force that handles disaster relief.

“The tolls continue to rise and unfortunately we anticipate that they are still very inaccurate because the emergency is continuing to develop,” said Governor Eduardo Leite.

Nearly 400 municipalities have been hit, including state capital Porto Alegre, with more than 160,000 people forced to leave their homes as streets have transformed into rivers after days of record-breaking rain.

Porto Alegre is home to some 1.4 million people and the larger metropolitan area has more than double that number.

The state’s Guaiba River, which runs through Porto Alegre, remained at historic high levels Tuesday, and officials said five dams were at risk of rupturing.

For tens of thousands of people stranded by impassable roads, collapsed bridges and flooded homes in Rio Grande do Sul, “the most urgent demand is (drinking) water,” said civil defense official Sabrina Ribas.

Helicopters were buzzing overhead Tuesday delivering water and food to communities most in need, while work continued on restoring road access.

In Alvorada, a municipality east of Porto Alegre, people queued with buckets and plastic bottles, collecting drinking water from the few taps still working.

Most shops have run out of bottled water.

“This is horrible. We have children,” said 27-year-old Gabriela Almeida, queuing at a public tap with a one-year-old in her arms.

Individuals and businesses with wells were doing what they could to help.

Alvorada resident Benildo Carvalho, 48, was one of them — filling neighbors’ bottles with a hose as a line of people formed outside his house.

“It’s a matter of solidarity,” he told AFP. “You cannot deny people water.”

Only two of Porto Alegre’s six water treatment plants were functioning, the mayor’s office said, and hospitals and shelters were being supplied by tankers.

The Brazilian Navy said it would send its “Atlantic” vessel — Latin America’s largest — to Rio Grande do Sul on Wednesday with two mobile water treatment stations.

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