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Brazil's floods leave more than 100 people dead and thousands displaced

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On yesterday's show, we heard about floods that have plagued East Africa for months, a combination of natural weather phenomena and human-caused climate change. Well, that same combination is also wreaking havoc in southern Brazil, where more than a hundred people have been killed. Many more are missing or displaced. Julia Carneiro reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

JULIA CARNEIRO, BYLINE: In this video from Porto Alegre, people are calling out for help from apartment blocks that seem suspended over the muddy waters. It's getting dark, and the city's at a standstill. The ground floors are entirely flooded. This is where Vanderson Chaves, Paralympic fencing athlete, chose to live. It was convenient for his wheelchair.

VANDERSON CHAVES: (Speaking Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: But now, his home is entirely underwater, he says. His medals, equipment, uniforms, appliances, everything. Vanderson was gearing up for his third Paralympic Games this year and has two key competitions next week to make it to the Paris games. But now, he doesn't know how he'll cope.

CHAVES: (Speaking Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: He says it feels like they're in a war zone. People have no water and no electricity. Being Black and disabled, he was accustomed to hardships, but this is chaos, he says.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRES LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says it's impossible to know the extent of the damage so far. This will only be clear after the waters recede, he says. His government announced $10 billion of resources to help various sectors in the Rio Grande do Sul state, giving incentives for businesses and anticipating social benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

CARNEIRO: But on the ground, people need help urgently. From the army to ordinary people, everyone is turning up at donation centers to volunteer. Locals are in dire need of basic goods - drinking water, personal hygiene items, food and mattresses.

MARIA EDUARDA CALDEIRA BRINO: (Non-English language spoken).

CARNEIRO: Film producer Maria Eduarda Brino tells me she asked a few friends for donations and was soon getting help from hundreds of people. She and two friends have been going from shelter to shelter to deliver donations for those forced out of their homes.

BRINO: (Non-English language spoken).

CARNEIRO: She says her house wasn't affected, but she couldn't just stay home seeing all the tragedies unfolding around her.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER SWIRLING)

CARNEIRO: By air, land and water, the rescue efforts continue, but these are floods of historic proportions. The torrential rains in southern Brazil reflect the rising global temperatures. This is worsened by the region's topography, which keeps the waters there trapped. The longer the floods last, the higher the costs and long-term impacts, leading some to compare this to Hurricane Katrina. For NPR News, I'm Julia Carneiro in Rio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Julia Carneiro