Mucum: An extratropical cyclone in southern Brazil caused floods in several cities, killing at least 27 people and leaving more than 1,600 homeless, authorities said Wednesday.
More than 60 cities have been battered by the storm since Monday night, and Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite said the death toll was the state’s highest from a climate event.
Rescue efforts expanded farther west on Wednesday with helicopters headed to the Rio Pardo Valley. Search and rescue teams had been focusing around the Taquari Valley, about 150 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the state capital, Porto Alegre, where most of the victims and damage were recorded.
More heavy rains were expected to hit the state's center-south region, but possibly sparing worst-hit areas.
Authorities maintained three flooding alerts on Wednesday — for the Jacui, Cai and Taquari rivers.
Videos showed families on the top of their houses pleading for help as rivers overflowed their banks. Some areas were entirely cut off after wide avenues turned into fast-moving rivers.
In Mucum, a city of about 50,000 residents, rescuers found 15 bodies in a single house. Once the storm had passed, residents discovered a trail of destruction along the river with most buildings crushed to the ground. Images showed a sheep hanging from an electrical line — an indication of how high the water had risen.
“The water arrived very fast, it was rising two meters (6½ feet) an hour,” Mucum resident Marcos Antonio Gomes said, standing on top of a pile of debris. “We have nothing left. Not even clothes.”
Gomes, a 55-year-old businessman, said it was the fourth time in 15 years that his house was damaged by floods. He said this one was the worst so far, and he expects more flooding in the future.
“There's no way we can live here. This will come back. We have to abandon (this place)," Gomes said.
Many of the victims died from electrical shock, or were trapped in vehicles, online news site G1 reported. One woman died as she was swept away during a rescue attempt, when the wire broke, releasing her and her rescuer, who was severely injured.
The city hall at Mucum recommended that residents seek out supplies to meet their needs for the next 72 hours.
Rio Grande do Sul was hit by another extratropical cyclone in June, which killed 16 people and caused destruction in 40 cities, many of those around Porto Alegre.