The death toll in the flooding in southern Brazil has risen to 56

Porto Alegre (Brazil) (AFP) – The death toll from floods and mudslides caused by violent storms in southern Brazil has risen to 56 people, while another 67 people are missing, the country’s civil defense said on Saturday.

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Rising water levels in Rio Grande do Sul state put pressure on dams and threatened the metropolis of Porto Alegre, where authorities were scrambling to evacuate some flooded neighborhoods.

Rescue workers faced a colossal task, with entire cities made inaccessible by flooding.

Residential areas were submerged as far as the eye can see, with roads destroyed and bridges swept away by the powerful currents.

According to local officials, at least 265 municipalities have suffered storm damage in Rio Grande do Sul since Monday, injuring dozens of people and displacing more than 24,000 people – a third of whom have been taken to shelters.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the region on Thursday and vowed there will be “no shortage of human or material resources” in the response to the disaster, which he blamed on climate change.

Climatologist Francisco Eliseu Aquino told AFP on Friday that the devastating storms were the result of a “disastrous cocktail” of global warming and the El Nino weather phenomenon.

South America’s largest country has recently experienced a series of extreme weather events, including a cyclone in September that claimed at least 31 lives.

Aquino said the region’s specific geography meant it often faced the effects of collisions between tropical and polar air masses, but these events have “intensified due to climate change.”