Death toll from floods in Brazil's south reaches 143, as rains continue to pour

By Lisandra Paraguassu

PORTO ALEGRE (Reuters) -The death toll from heavy rains in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state rose to 143, up from 136 on the day before, the local civil defense government body said on Sunday, as rains continue to pour on the state.

Another 125 people remain unaccounted for in the state, where rivers are reporting rising levels. Weather service Metsul called the situation "extremely worrying."

On Saturday evening the government announced around 12.1 billion reais ($2.34 billion) in emergency spending to deal with the crisis that has displaced more than 538,000 people in the state, out of a population of around 10.9 million.

With this new money, more than 60 billion reais in federal funds has already been made available to the state, said the federal government in a statement on Saturday.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the state will rebuild what was destroyed.

"We know that not everything can be recovered, mothers have lost their children and children have lost their mothers," said Lula on social media X, in a statement to mark Mother's Day.

On Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement, saying that his administration is in contact with Brazil's government to provide assistance.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people impacted by this tragedy and the first responders working to rescue and provide medical care to families and individuals," said Biden.

More rain fell on Sunday and is expected on Monday. Less than two weeks after the rains began, the state is again on alert with the risk of water rising once more to record levels on the Guaiba lake, near the capital Porto Alegre.

The state is at a geographical meeting point between tropical and polar atmospheres, which has created a weather pattern with periods of intense rains or drought.

Local scientists believe the pattern has been intensifying due to climate change.

($1 = 5.1619 reais)

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Josie Kao and Nick Zieminski)