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Southern Brazil Storm Claims Lives of at Least 21, Leaves Thousands Displaced

Torrential rains and strong winds swept through southern Brazil on Tuesday, leaving at least 21 people dead and thousands of others displaced, according to state authorities.

The storm affected 67 municipalities as of Sept. 5, leading to the evacuation of more than 3,000 residents, according to the Civil Defense of Rio Grande do Sul. Some 1,650 people have lost their homes in the flooding.

Authorities in Rio Grande do Sul have confirmed that the death toll reached 21, the state’s highest owing to a weather event. Of those, 15 deaths were reported in Mucum, a city of about 50,000 residents.

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Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite said one of the dead was a woman who was swept away during a rescue attempt.

“I regret the death of a woman in a rescue attempt over the Taquari River,” he said. “The wire broke, she and a rescuer fell. Unfortunately, the woman did not survive, and the rescuer is seriously injured.”

Mr. Leite said he had urged authorities to take measures to mitigate the impact of the storm and intensify search and support efforts in the affected areas, according to a statement issued by his office.

“The focus now is saving lives. There are many people stranded, waiting on rooftops, and the cold is increasing. All of our effort in this first moment is in rescuing people and getting them to safety,” he remarked.

TV footage showed families perched atop their houses pleading for help as rivers overflowed their banks. The city hall at Mucum urged residents to seek out supplies to sustain themselves for the next 72 hours.

More than 40 vessels have been deployed to rescue people who are stranded in flooded areas. Authorities have also dispatched military aircraft and a helicopter to support the search and rescue operations.

“I want to assure the population that we are working with full dedication. Hundreds of people were [being] rescued,” Mr. Leite said in a separate statement.

This marks the second time that Rio Grande do Sul has been struck by an extra-tropical cyclone this year. Earlier in June, a deadly storm resulted in at least 16 deaths and left 40 cities reeling from widespread destruction.

An extra-tropical cyclone is a type of weather system that most often occurs in middle and high latitudes rather than in the tropics. Mayors of affected cities said twice as much rain fell in 24 hours than would normally be expected for the entire month of June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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