Cars sit on a collapsed bridge that crosses the Jacui River during heavy rains in the Agudo municipality of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010. At least 12 people disappeared Tuesday after the bridge collapsed, according to Civil Defense authorities.

SAO PAULO: A rain-swollen river in southern Brazil swept away cars and at least 20 people Tuesday, seven of whom were confirmed dead, local media reported.

The bridge on route ERS-287, near Agudo in Rio Grande do Sul state, apparently was knocked down by the raging Jacui River, O Globo reported in its online edition.

“Part of the bridge collapsed and some people went over to see what was happening. And then the rest of it fell down,” firefighter Menardino Weber told O Globo.

Some press reports said dozens of people were still missing, which could not be immediately confirmed.

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains have killed 72 people in Brazil in the past week, with the greatest number of fatalities in Angra dos Reis, a beach city south of Rio de Janeiro. — AFP