Devastating Floods Sweeps Through Rio Grande do Sul Wine Region

By | 8 May 2024

The natural disaster has wrought destruction on homes, roads, and bridges, with the muddy brown water reaching as high as rooftops in some places.

Over 250 individuals have been injured and at least 111 are missing according to the state’s civil defense unit, indicating that the death count may increase.

‘This level of rainfall in a single location is unprecedented in Brazilian history,’ stated President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

This year, the corrosion effects of the El Niño weather pattern have been markedly severe in South America, compounding the issues caused by climate change.

Some vineyards are completely submerged in water, and rescuers are wading through waist-deep water in a bid to save families across the state.

Local authorities reported that more than 80,000 people have been displaced as a result of the record-breaking floods.

Isolete Neumann, who lives in the city of Lajeado, told Associated Press ‘People were making barricades in front of hospitals with sand and gravel. It felt like a horror movie.’

Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s largest wine-producing state, accounting for approximately 90% of total production. The state is at the southern tip of the country, bordering Uruguay and Argentina.

Videos on social media highlight the devastating impact of the floods in Serra Gaúcha, experiencing river overflows and landslides. Other clips depict city streets transmuted into rivers in Nova Prata, a municipality at the heart of the Serra Gaúcha region.

The scope of the damage to the region’s agricultural industry is still undetermined, but soybean producers are bracing for considerable losses.

Rio Grande do Sul is situated at a unique geographical juncture between tropical and polar climates, which can result in intense periods of rain and drought. Local scientists assert that the climate crisis has amplified these patterns.

Karina Lima, a scientist and PhD candidate in climatology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, was quoted by AP, stating: ‘Models have long predicted that Rio Grande do Sul will continue to see an increase in average annual precipitation and extreme precipitation, implying more concentrated and severe rainfall.’

The Brazilian Geological Service has verified that the ongoing flooding in the state has exceeded the previous record established in 1941. According to the organization, the water levels in certain cities have reached their highest points since record-keeping began nearly a century and a half ago.

Referring to it as ‘the most severe climate catastrophe our state has witnessed,’ Governor Eduardo Leite expressed concern. Leite remarked that the ‘river levels are expected to remain high for a number of days.’ Although the exact timing of the crisis’s resolution remains uncertain, the Governor promised to approach the situation ‘with focus, diligence, order, and perfect indignation, ensuring that everything possible will be undertaken within our capabilities.’

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