MUÇUM-The death toll from a cyclone that unleashed torrential rain and flooding on southern Brazil rose to at least 36 Thursday, authorities said, as the region braced for more violent weather. With the flood waters forcing some residents to climb onto their roofs, a major emergency operation was underway, with one official saying more than 1,000 people were awaiting rescue. The storms, which started Monday, left whole neighborhoods submerged in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. “The water rose so fast, I didn’t even have time to take anything with me. I lost everything,” said Paulo Roberto Neto Vargas, 39, a resident of the hard-hit town of Roca Sales, where emergency workers recovered six bodies.
“There were so many people screaming, calling for help. We’re only alive thanks to God,” he told AFP. Flash floods and landslides obliterated huge swathes of the affected communities, leaving trails of wrecked houses and muddy brown water. It is the latest in a series of deadly weather disasters to hit Brazil, which experts say are likely being made worse by climate change. Governor Eduardo Leite, who went on a flyover of flood-hit areas, said thousands of people were waiting to be rescued. “There are still a lot of families stranded on the roofs of their houses,” he said. The governor, who declared a state of emergency, called it the deadliest weather disaster ever to hit Rio Grande do Sul, as hundreds of rescue workers, police and volunteers continued efforts to reach areas cut off by flooding. More than 5,300 people have been forced from their homes, with at least 52,000 residents and 70 towns affected in all, authorities said. Leite warned the situation could worsen, with more rain forecast for late Wednesday and into Thursday, Brazil’s independence day