Severe Brazil flooding spreads in Bahia and beyond

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP): A total of 116 cities in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia were in a state of emergency because of flooding on Tuesday due to heavy rains that have been pounding the region since the end of November.

Cities in at least five other states in Brazil’s north and southeast have also been flooded in recent days.

In Bahia, flooding has affected more than 470,000 people. In at least 50 cities, water surged into homes and businesses, and people were forced to abandon their belongings. Official data from the state government say 34,163 people have been made homeless and almost 43,000 are displaced. There have been a total of 21 deaths and 358 people injured since the beginning of the month.

This is the heaviest period of rainfall for Bahia in the last 32 years, according to the website of the National Center for Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters, a government agency. In southern Bahia, it rained more than five times the normal amount for this time of the year.

In an interview with local radio stations Tuesday morning, Bahia Gov. Rui Costa compared the situation to a “bombardment.” He also said that coronavirus vaccines were lost in the floods of some cities.

“Some municipal health offices and medicine depots were completely under water,” he said.

On Tuesday, the population of at least four municipalities in Bahia received warnings to leave their homes because of the increased flow of the Pardo River due to the opening of the Machado Mineiro dam’s sluice gates in neighboring Minas Gerais state, according to the state government’s advisory office.

Bahia’s Civil Defense superintendent, Col. Miguel Filho, told The Associated Press that there are still flooded and isolated cities, and rains are still ongoing.

“Our first response is to help, then to shelter, to care for the population in the shelters by giving humanitarian aid, with sheets, blankets, food,” he said.

He added that at least five dams in Bahia are at risk of bursting. Bridges and federal and state roads in the state were destroyed and have been provisionally rebuilt to allow food and other items to be brought to people in need.