After exceptionally heavy rainfall in the south of Brazil, people in the region are fighting against the floodwaters. In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, large areas of land were under water, streets and houses were flooded. So far, 116 people have died as a result of the storm, according to local civil defense.

“The effects of the floods and the scale of the tragedy are devastating,” wrote the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Eduardo Leite, on the online platform X. His government assumes that at least 19 billion reais (3, 4 billion euros) are needed.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced an aid package worth billions for the region. “We must not allow bureaucracy to prevent us from helping the people of Rio Grande do Sul,” he wrote on

According to civil defense, 756 people were injured and 143 others are still missing. More than 1.9 million people in 437 towns in the region were affected by the flood. Over 400,000 people left their homes and sought protection with relatives or in emergency shelters.

Without electricity and drinking water

Numerous communities in the disaster area were cut off from electricity and water supplies. Telephone and internet connections were also interrupted in many towns. The Air Force brought relief supplies to the region, including medicine, water treatment plants and food. The United Nations refugee agency will provide tents, field kitchens, solar-powered lamps and hygiene products, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva on Friday. Around 41,000 refugees and migrants from Venezuela and Haiti also live in the flood-affected region.

The Catholic relief organization Caritas also brought relief supplies to the flood area. “What is urgently needed now is food and clean water, but also clothes and hygiene products. People’s belongings have simply sunk in the flood, they now have nothing left,” said Manuel Brettschneider from Caritas international. “There hasn’t been anything like this for more than 80 years. You can talk about a once-in-a-century flood, that’s no exaggeration.”

The city of Canoas was hit particularly hard. “The city has been destroyed. We lost 19 of the 27 health centers. Four of the five district pharmacies were destroyed,” said Mayor Jairo Jorge on Globo TV. “All schools were damaged, we lost infrastructure and sports centers and have to rebuild everything.”

Thousands of firefighters and disaster relief workers were deployed to fight the floods. In Canoas on Thursday they rescued a horse that was stranded on the roof of a house. The animal was stunned and brought ashore in a rubber dinghy, as seen on television. According to civil protection, the emergency services brought a total of over 70,000 people and almost 1,000 animals to safety.

More rain forecast

The Brazilian weather service Inmet predicted further heavy rains for the region until Sunday. The Civil Protection of Rio Grande do Sul issued a warning for heavy rain and strong winds with speeds of more than 90 kilometers per hour for a large part of the state. There was also a risk of thunderstorms and hail.

“Rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul has broken all records. Data shows that in less than 15 days it has rained more across the state than in five months, and a new cold front with even more rain is forecast,” meteorologist Carlos Nobre told the state news agency Agência Brasil. “While there will not be as much rain as last week, river levels will remain high and people in low lying areas will continue to struggle with flooding.”

Brazil has recently repeatedly suffered from extreme weather conditions. At the end of last year, for example, the actually humid Amazon region groaned under a once-in-a-century drought and extreme heat. The water levels of many rivers fell dramatically and many animals died.

Extreme weather events such as the floods in the south of Brazil naturally occur from time to time. According to scientists, however, climate change is increasing both the frequency and the intensity. “Climate change – due to global warming caused by greenhouse gases that we release into the atmosphere – is the reason why extreme events are becoming more common and breaking records,” said Brazilian meteorologist Nobre.