Brazil cyclone death toll rises to 27

BRASILIA: The death toll from an extratropical cyclone that lashed southern Brazil with torrential rain and winds rose to 27 after six more bodies were found, authorities said Wednesday, warning it could increase further.

"Thousands of people have been rescued. Unfortunately, 27 deaths have been confirmed so far, and given the situation, the number could rise further," Rio Grande do Sul state Governor Eduardo Leite told journalists before a flyover of flood-hit areas.

"There are still a lot of families stranded on the roofs of their houses," he added. "There are thousands of stranded people who still need to be rescued."

He called it the deadliest weather disaster ever to hit the state, as hundreds of rescue workers, police and volunteers continued efforts to reach areas cut off by flooding since the storms started Monday.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's communications minister, Paulo Pimenta, said the federal government would request more aircraft to help in the rescue effort, in addition to the four helicopters it sent Tuesday.

The dead included an elderly woman who was being lifted to safety by a rescue worker when the cable holding her broke, plunging her into a flood-swollen river.

The governor warned the situation could worsen, with more rain forecast for late Wednesday and into Thursday, Brazil's independence day.

It is the latest in a string of deadly weather events to hit Brazil, which experts say are likely being made worse by climate change.

Unchecked urbanisation and irregular housing built on hillsides are also making such disasters deadlier, officials say. -- AFP

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