Storm leaves two dead, dozens injured

A spiraling storm lashed the coast of southern Brazil, killing two people, injuring at least 35 others and damaging thousands of homes, civil defence officials said today.

A spiraling storm lashed the coast of southern Brazil, killing two people, injuring at least 35 others and damaging thousands of homes, civil defence officials said today.

Five fishermen were missing off the coast of Santa Catarina, and number of injuries was expected to rise amid heavy rains in two hard-hit southern states, the officials said.

As many as 40,000 homes could be damaged in Santa Catarina state, they said. Power was out in some 40 cities and towns.

The storm, dubbed Catarina by meteorologists, hit the coasts of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul late on Saturday with heavy rains and high winds.

On Saturday, meteorologists from the Brazilian Centre for Weather Prediction and Climatic Studies called it a tropical storm with estimated winds of 80-90 kph (50-56 mph).

But U.S. experts said it was a hurricane – the first on record in the South Atlantic. The U.S. National Hurricane Centre in Florida estimated the storm was a full-fledged, Category I hurricane with central winds of between 121-129 kph (75-80 kph).

Today, Brazilian scientists said they were surprised by the intensity of the storm.

Dr Gustavo Escobar of the Centre for Weather Prediction and Climatic Studies said winds could have been stronger than 80 kph (50 mph).

Marcelo Moraes, a meteorologist at the Integrated Climate Centre of Santa Catarina state said winds could have been reached 150 kph (94 mph) – enough to classify it as a hurricane.

Brazil has no wind-measuring devices in the affected areas, and both U.S. and Brazilian scientists said they were basing their estimates on satellite data.

By late this morning, the storm was dissipating “but a great instability with the possibility of rains could increase the damage,” Santa Catarina state Civil Defence spokesman Enio Novaes said.

In Santa Catarina state, a tree smashed into a car near Criciuma and killed the driver, officials said. His wife was seriously injured. At least 30 others also were injured, Novaes said.

Strong winds destroyed some 200 homes in Criciuma and damaged another 3,000, but officials said that number could run as high as 40,000 for Santa Catarina state alone once they are done assessing the damage.

In Torres in Rio Grande do Sul state, a house collapsed in an area of beach resorts pummeled by high winds, killing a child, Civil Defence official Marcio Luiz Alves said.

The storm destroyed some 300 homes there and left 35,000 people without electricity.

Five people in Torres were injured by falling roof parts and at least 80 families fled their homes and were sheltered in nearby schools, Rio Grande do Sul state Civil Defense officer Alexandre Wilante said.

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