Pope sends prayers to people affected by heavy rainfall in Brazil
By Francesca Merlo and James Blears
Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity and sent his prayers to victims of flooding in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul State.
The Pope sent a telegram on Saturday, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, to Archbishop Leomar Brustolin of Santa Maria Diocese, who is also president of the South Region 3 of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil.
The Holy Father shared his closeness to victims of the natural disaster, as heavy rains cause destruction in the State of Rio Grande do Sul.
These rains, said the Pope, have left behind "a trail of destruction and death".
He offered his "paternal solicitude" and imparted his blessing to all those affected by the widespread flooding.
Pope Francis also assured all the bishops of the region of his prayers for "the eternal repose of the victims" and for all those who have lost their homes, "hoping that the reconstruction will take place quickly and effectively."
The Cyclone hit the States of Rio Grande Do Sul and Santa Catarina. The Ministry of Development says that dozens of townships have been submerged. So far seventy nine of them have been severely affected.
More than eleven inches of rain has fallen during this week. Aerial photographs show the extent of the devastation which covers a wide area.
Authorities warned householders to evacuate and stay away from low lying areas, but the sheer speed of the elements and their devastation capacity, caught many by surprise. The region is criss crossed by four large rivers which have burst their banks.
The cyclone has been complicated and made all the more dangerous by a tornado which has also caused extensive damage.
Police and Military planes, boats and helicopters have been scouring the area, searching for stranded people, many who have taken to their rooftops, clinging in desperation.
The Authorities of Rio Grande do Do Sul say they are dismayed by the lethal nature of the weather. Rescue teams continue their search and the death toll is expected to rise.
Thousands have lost their homes and livlihoods. There are still power outages and danger lurking. The Civil Defence has issued multiple flood and landslide warnings.
Rio Grande Do Sul has gone through all of this before and recently. It was slammed by a cyclone in June which killed eleven people.
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