Flooding in Brazil: Worse forecast in the south


Eldorado do Sul, Brazil (AP) – More heavy rain is forecast for Brazil's already flood-prone Rio Grande do Sul state, where many of the remaining poor people are limited to less vulnerable areas. capable of.

According to a Friday afternoon bulletin from Brazil's National Meteorological Institute, more than 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) of rain could fall over the weekend and the flooding will likely worsen. It said there was also a high probability that winds would pick up and water levels in Lake Patos in and around the state capital, Porto Alegre, would rise.

Residents rest in a temporary shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

Residents rest in a temporary shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

By Saturday morning, heavy rains were falling in northern Rio Grande do Sul, while drizzle was falling in Porto Alegre and the southern part of the state.

Carlos Sampaio, 62, lives in a low-income community in Porto Alegre next to the stadium of soccer club Gremio. Its two-story home doubles as a sports bar.

Although the first floor is flooded, he said he won't go for fear of looters in his high-crime neighborhood, where police patrol its flooded streets with assault rifles. But Sampaio has nowhere else to go, he told The Associated Press.

“I'm analyzing how safe I am, and I know my stuff is not safe at all,” Sampaio said. “As long as I can fight for myself, not expose myself within my abilities, I will fight.”

At least 136 people have been killed in the floods since last week, and 125 more are missing, local officials said Friday. Over 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes due to torrential rains, of which 70,000 have taken shelter in gymnasiums, schools and other temporary shelters.

Gas cylinders float in flood waters at a gas distribution center after heavy rain in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Gas cylinders float in flood waters at a gas distribution center after heavy rain in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

“I came here on Monday – lost my apartment in the flood,” Uber driver Mathis Vicari, 32, said inside a shelter where he is staying with his young son. “I don't spend much time here. I try to think about something else.”

Some residents of Rio Grande do Sul state have found shelter in other homes, including Alexandra Zanilla, who co-owns a content agency in Porto Alegre.

Zenila and her partner volunteered when the flooding began, but opted to move out after repeated power and water cuts. She headed to the beach town of Capao da Canoa – so far unaffected by the floods – where her partner's family owns a summer home.

“We rode with my sister-in-law, took our two cats, my mother and a friend of hers and got here safely. We left the chaos of Porto Alegre,” Zanella, 42, told the AP by phone. . “It is quite clear that those who have the privilege to leave are in a more secure position, and those living in the poorer areas of Porto Alegre have no option.”

Volunteers push a wheelchair carrying a resident evacuated from an area flooded by heavy rains in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Volunteers push a wheelchair carrying a resident evacuated from an area flooded by heavy rains in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

In Brazil, the poor often live in houses made of less resilient materials such as wood and live in unorganized areas that are more vulnerable to damage from extreme weather, such as lowlands or steep hills.

“We cannot say that the worst is over,” Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leti said on social media on Friday. A day earlier, he estimated that 19 billion reais ($3.7 billion) would be needed to rebuild the state.

The scale of the devastation may be most comparable to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005, MB Associates chief economist Sergio Weil wrote in a note Friday.

Residents rest in a gymnasium that has been converted into a shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos state, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on May 8, 2024.  (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

Residents rest in a gymnasium that has been converted into a shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos state, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

According to the National Institute of Statistics, Rio Grande do Sul has the sixth highest GDP per capita among Brazil's 26 states and federal districts. Many of the state's residents are descended from Italian and German immigrants.

“In popular perception, the population of the Rio Grande do Sul is seen as white and well-to-do, but that's not the reality,” said Marilia Clos, a researcher at CIPO Platform, a climate think tank. “It's very important to debunk this myth, because it's been constructed with political intent” to erase black and poor residents, she said.

In one of the state's worst-hit cities, Canvas, Paulo Cesar Wolf's small wooden house is completely submerged with all its belongings. A truck driver, the black man now lives in the back of a borrowed truck with his six neighbors, who all cook, eat and sleep there.

People who lost their homes due to flooding live in a truck trailer in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

People who lost their homes due to flooding live in a truck trailer in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Wolff, 54, has considered leaving the rural area, where he has lived since childhood, but has nowhere else to go and doesn't want to leave his four grown children behind.

“It's too late for someone like me to go anywhere else,” Wolf said, wearing a donated sweatshirt as he stood on a highway.

The Meteorological Department has predicted that a mass influx of cold and dry air will reduce the chances of rain starting Monday. But that also means temperatures will drop sharply by Wednesday, to near freezing. This makes hypothermia a concern for those who are wet and hypothermic.

Celebrities, among them supermodel Gisele Bundchen and pop star Anita, are sharing links and information on where and how to donate to help flood victims. Across the country, churches, businesses, schools and ordinary citizens are rallying to offer support.

Volunteers gather to help evacuate residents from an area flooded by heavy rains in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Volunteers gather to help evacuate residents from an area flooded by heavy rains, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

The United Nations Refugee Agency is distributing blankets and mattresses. It is sending additional items, such as emergency shelters, kitchen sets, blankets, solar lamps and hygiene kits, from its stockpiles to northern Brazil and other parts of the region.

On Thursday, Brazil's federal government announced a 50.9 billion reais ($10 billion) package for employees, beneficiaries of social programs, state and municipalities, companies and rural producers in Rio Grande do Sul.

That same day, the Brazilian Air Force delivered more than two tons of food and water to areas inaccessible due to closed roads. The Navy has sent three ships to help the victims, including the Atlantic multipurpose aircraft ship, which it says is the largest warship in Latin America. It reached the coast of the state on Saturday.

The United States has sent $20,000 in personal hygiene kits and cleaning supplies and will provide another $100,000 in humanitarian aid through existing regional programs, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Residents rest in a temporary shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

Residents rest in a temporary shelter for people whose homes were flooded by heavy rains in Canos, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Carlos Macedo)

South America's weather is influenced by the El Nino climate phenomenon, a naturally occurring phenomenon that periodically warms surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In Brazil, El Nino has historically caused drought in the north and heavy rains in the south, and this year the effects have been particularly severe.

Scientists say extreme weather is becoming more frequent because of climate change, the burning of fossil fuels that emit planet-warming greenhouse gases, and agree that the world The burning of coal, oil and gas needs to be reduced rapidly to limit global warming. .

But a social policy response is also needed, said Natalie Interstel, president of the Talanoa Institute, a Rio de Janeiro-based climate policy think tank.

Chickens stand on the roof of a flooded house after heavy rain in Canos state, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Chickens stand on the roof of a flooded house after heavy rain in Canos state, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

“Providing an effective response to climate change in Brazil requires us to tackle inequality,” Unterstell said.

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Hughes reported from Rio de Janeiro.



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