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Record floods and drought in “complicated” Brazil

Monday, May 11th 2009 - 09:01 UTC
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Forty four deaths had been confirmed in northern Brazil's worst flooding in decades, fed by two months of unusually heavy rains in a zone stretching from deep in the Amazon to normally arid areas near the Atlantic coast. In spite of a gradual Sunday retreat of water in some areas the number of homeless climbed to 300.000

Brazilian president who last week toured the inundated areas this week is scheduled to visit south Brazil hit by a record drought.

“Isn’t Brazil complicated? This week I will visit drought ravaged states in the South. This means we have to consider much seriously the climate situation”, said Lula da Silva.

In Maranhao state, one of the worst affected regions, a small canoe capsized with seven people aboard on a river between the towns of Pedreiras and Trizidela do Vale. Two passengers were missing: a 54-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman.

Emergency crews struggled to clear debris from highways blocked by landslides, seeking to open the way for desperately needed aid shipments. There have been widespread complaints that the government was too slow in delivering food and water.

“It's raining less and we were able to clear some of the highways that were blocked,” Maranhao state civil defense spokesman Ivar Araujo said. “It will be easier bringing help to the victims, but the situation is still a little complicated.”

There were reports of scattered looting in Maranhao and of residents refusing to leave flooded homes for fear of thieves. But the gradual retreat of high water in many places boosted spirits.

“We're hoping the situation improves because the rains have not been so intense,” said Maria Dorothea de Araujo, the Amazon operations manager for the aid group World Vision

In the state of Amazon, crossed by the Rio Negro, water is climbing three centimetres per day and is beginning to reach the historical centre of the capital Manaos. In the state of Piauí in most towns power is down and the drinking water system has collapsed. Teresina the capital is preparing for a second major flood in less than a week.

About 130,000 food baskets and 1.4 million kits containing mattresses, blankets and pillows have been distributed in the affected areas, authorities said. According to an official estimate, the total economic losses from the flooding - most severe since mid-1950s - would be about the equivalent of 500 million US dollars.

President Lula da Silva said he was unhappy with the rehabilitation work, as the “bureaucratic hurdles” have prevented the government from providing fast aid to the affected people.

Meanwhile in the south of Brazil, an acute drought has hit the famed horseshoe-shaped Igauzu falls cutting back the tumbling waters to reveal the rocky sides. Only a third of the usual volume of water is now flowing over the top of the stunning falls, which were listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1984 and border both Brazil and Argentina, Globo television said.

At the foot of the falls on the Brazilian side, the bottom of the Parana River is now clearly visible, allowing environmentalists a rare chance to clean up mountains of accumulated trash.

The falls, which are actually made up of 275 waterfalls stretching some 2.5 kilometres are taller than the Niagara Falls and twice as wide.

They provide a panoramic backdrop to the tropical rainforest region, with an average of 553 cubic feet of water per second from the Iguazu River thundering some 269 feet over the falls and then draining into the Parana.

Southern Brazil has been hit by its worst drought in 80 years, leading authorities to declare a state of emergency in some areas, while the usually arid northeast of the

Another unique wildlife area in Brazil is suffering from the lack of rainfall: the world famous and largest lowlands of Pantanal. “We have the lowest rainfall records in 35 years” said the spokesperson for Brazil’s Forests and Lowlands Department.

Categories: Environment, Brazil.

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