Floods in Brazil: "We find distraught inhabitants, alone in the mud"
Soldiers, firefighters and residents search the rubble on the heights of Recife (Brazil), after the floods, May 29, 2022.

The south of the state of Bahia in December 2021, the region of Sao Paulo in January 2022, the city of Petropolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro in February and now the state of Pernambuco: Brazil is experiencing a black series of tragedies caused by rain. From Wednesday May 25, the state of Pernambuco, where former President Lula was born, in the northeast of Brazil, experienced very heavy rainfall. On Saturday, 236 millimeters of rain fell in the state capital, Recife, which is equivalent to more than 70% of the forecast for the whole of May (328.9 millimeters), according to the meteorological services. .

The damage is considerable throughout the metropolitan region of Recife, where more than 4 million inhabitants live: landslides have carried away dozens of houses built on the hillside, causing many victims. But the three main rivers that burst their banks also destroyed houses built on the banks, and flooded the majority of the 14 municipalities on the outskirts of Recife.

“In some neighborhoods, the water has really taken everything away and people have nothing left. We found distraught inhabitants, without shoes, alone in the mud. The social and economic losses are immense,” explains Victoria Alvares, who participates, alongside the Landless Movement, in food distributions. On Monday, the rains caused further damage in the state of Alagoas, south of Pernambuco. On Tuesday, the balance sheet, still provisional, reports at least 100 dead, 14 missing and more than 6,000 people who have lost their homes and are in shelters opened by the town hall.

“Complicated Geography”

“Recife has a particular and complicated geography, between, on one side, sometimes very steep hills and, on the other, an area of ​​estuaries where the Capibaribe and Beberibe rivers flow. In recent decades, the poor population has been moved away from the plains and moved to the hills, even though these are areas at risk, where the highest number of deaths is always counted”, explains Osvaldo Girao, professor of geography at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Recife has already experienced similar disasters, particularly in 1975, with more than 103 victims – 80% of the city’s area was found under water. Then again in 1986 and again in 2010.

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At the origin of these catastrophes, the same meteorological phenomenon: atmospheric disturbances which form at this time of the year and which move from Africa towards the Atlantic coast of Brazil. “This is a natural dynamic of the climate, which is not particularly amplified by climate change according to our readings. On the other hand, the destruction of the environment, uncontrolled urbanization and the increase in population no longer make it possible to absorb the impact of the climate. In short, the problem is not in the sky, but on the surface of the earth,” estimates climatologist Carlos Jardim, professor at the Institute of Geosciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

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