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A cyclone has killed over 20 people in Brazil, with more flooding expected

An aerial view of an area affected by an extratropical cyclone in Muçum, in Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on Tuesday. Authorities are warning there could be more flooding to come.
Mateus Bruxel/Agencia RBS
/
AFP via Getty Images
An aerial view of an area affected by an extratropical cyclone in Muçum, in Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on Tuesday. Authorities are warning there could be more flooding to come.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A powerful cyclone ravaged southern Brazil, killing at least 27 people and displacing hundreds, local officials said Wednesday morning, raising the death toll as more victims have been discovered.

Most of the fatalities were in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, with an additional victim found in neighboring Santa Catarina.

The extratropical cyclone slammed into the region beginning Monday night, dumping more than 11 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. Heavy winds caused extreme damage and hundreds fled rising rivers for higher ground. Brazil's National Institute of Meteorology has warned that more rainfall is on its way, with expectations of further flooding.

In the town of Muçum, where 85% was underwater, many residents were rescued by helicopters from rooftops.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised to do whatever is necessary to "save people from these problems."

Authorities point to warming weather from climate change for the extreme rainfall. There are many factors that can cause extreme weather, however a warming climate makes intense rainfall more likely. In February, at least 40 people died in flooding and landslides in São Paulo state.

Lula has vowed to reach zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2030, since returning to office this year. The Amazon's trees absorb carbon and are seen as vital to combat global warming.

Deforestation levels under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, had skyrocketed.

The government announced this week that deforestation dropped 66% in August over the previous year's figures. That comes on the heels of similar deforestation declines in July. That is good news since numbers usually increase during the hot dry months.

Brazil's environment minister also announced the demarcation of two new Indigenous reserves. Environmentalists and Indigenous leaders say the move is vital legal protection for native peoples who resist illegal mining and encroaching agriculture on their lands, both drivers of deforestation.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.