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Cyclone Ravages Southern Brazil

Photo: Al Jazeera 

At least eleven people have died and another twenty have gone missing in Brazil's most recent cyclone. The cyclone hit  Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state, on June 16, 2023. The appropriate conditions for a cyclone formed as a cold front moved toward Argentina and there was also a low-pressure system in the Atlantic, near the state. Currently, estimates reveal that at least 5,000 homes have been damaged and 84,000 people were left without any power. Additionally, roads have become unusable due to the flooding the cyclone has caused. São Leopoldo, a town half an hour from Porto Alegre, received 246 mm (9.7 inches) of rainfall in 18 hours. Porto Alegre's mayor, Ary Jose Vanazzi, emphasized that these levels of rain in such a short time period are unprecedented in the region. The extremely high levels of precipitation have isolated communities currently struggling to attain basic necessities. 

On Saturday, Rio Grande do Sul Governor, Eduardo Leite, visited affected areas in the state alongside government and rescue officials. In an official statement, Leite emphasized that it is necessary to “quickly map the main affected areas, and identify the people who need support.” Leite made it clear that his main objective was to protect and save human lives. The civil defense agency has reaffirmed that the search operation for those missing is still ongoing. Lula's administration will give federal aid to the affecte areas.

In recent years, Brazil has experienced a higher frequency of cyclones. Climate experts such as Francis Lacerda, a researcher at Brazil’s IPA Climate Change Laboratory, have stated that climate change plays a fundamental role in this rising trend. As more greenhouse gases are being absorbed into the ocean, ocean currents themselves start to change. Such a shift causes heat distribution to be altered between Earth’s poles and the equator. As a result, more extreme natural phenomena will occur, as is the case in Brazil currently.

Next week, Rio Grande do Sul is expected to have more rainfall and cold temperatures which can exacerbate the current situation. The state government has already taken action by implementing preventative measures. For example, sandbags to prevent flooding have been given to residents, schools and businesses have closed down, and evacuation orders have been ordered in an effort to prevent more potential damage. Emergency crews will keep working within the regions affected. In addition, meals, water, and shelter will be given to the sufferers displaced via the cyclone. It is essential for the authorities of Rio Grande do Sul to preserve these measures in the near future. However, long-time period goals which include rebuilding the damage due to the cyclone and mitigating climate change are similarly crucial for the Brazilian authorities and citizens.


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