LAJEADO, Brazil — For several hours, floodwaters rose until they swept away the home of Miguel Rutigliano Bieleski, his wife and two children. Bieleski said he only survived by hanging on to a tree branch.
Bieleski, 35, is one of many Brazilians in the south of the country struggling to rebuild their lives after being hit by a tropical cyclone this week. Around 7,700 people are estimated to have lost their homes, according to government authorities.
At least 41 people have died due to the storm, and 46 are still missing, according to authorities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which has declared a state of emergency. Meteorologists are forecasting more rain before the deluge dissipates by Sunday.
Bieleski lives in the town of Lajeado, which was hit hard by floodwaters from the clogged Taquari River.
He blamed emergency services for the deaths of his wife and children, saying they urged him to stay at home while waiting for help which never arrived.
“They did nothing,” he said, adding that he was now suffering the consequences.
Emergency services in Rio Grande do Sul did not respond to a request for comment.
Paulo Ricardo Siqueira Santos, also from Lajeado, now sleeps in his car after his house was filled with mud and water. Before fleeing, the 65-year-old retiree managed to save his gardening tools, his only means of subsistence apart from donations of food and water. He said he feared the thieves would ransack the remaining belongings, and he now lives in his car.
“I’ve lived here 60 years and I’ve never seen a tragedy (like this),” he said. “The water reached the second floor of my house.”
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