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Flooding in Brazil Triggers Deadly Landslides and Devastates Poor Neighbourhoods

by Olivia Lai Americas May 31st 20222 mins
Flooding in Brazil Triggers Deadly Landslides and Devastates Poor Neighbourhoods

Death toll rises up to at least 91 in the latest major flooding in Brazil, which has wiped out favelas and displaced at least 4,000 residents, underscoring poor urban planning and worsening climate change-indued impacts. 

Over 100 people are missing or confirmed dead in the wake of extreme heavy rainfall and flooding in Brazil, according to officials, devastating poor and urban neighbourhoods in the northeastern part of the country.

The region, including the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, has suffered from exceptionally high volumes of rain since last week. Some areas recorded more rainfall within a 24-hour period than the total volume expected for the month of May.

The heavy rains triggered dangerous mudslides that went on to destroy housing in poor neighbourhoods and vulnerable favelas, also known to be slums or shanty towns outside of major cities that are built on hillsides. Nearly 4,000 have lost their homes, according to CNN Brasil, with 14 municipalities  declaring a state of emergency.

The latest fatal flooding in Brazil is the fourth major flooding event in five months. Last December and early January saw dozens of fatalities and tens of thousands displaced in the Bahia state, also located in northeastern Brazil; 18 were killed in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo in late January;  and more than 230 died as result of floods in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The rising death toll from natural disasters underlines a severe lack of urban planning in low-income neighbourhoods throughout the country, as well as lack of climate adaptation and infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, these catastrophes happen in a continent-sized country,” said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. “We’re all obviously sad. We express our sympathy to family members. Our bigger objective is to comfort families and also, with material means, attend to the population.”

Experts however, say that climate change is contributing to more extreme weather events, including more intense rainfall, increasing the risk of floods and landslides, particularly in areas that have been overly deforested and built upon.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cited Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, as one of the world’s most vulnerable cities. Its low-lying metro region is located at the delta of three rivers, and a network of dozens of canals make the city more prone to flooding, posing increased risk for its 4 million residents. 

To lower the climate risks, Recife became the first Latin American city to sign on for a programme that will create insurance against climate disasters. The programme is initiated by a network of local and regional governments and financed by German development bank KfW.

For now, Pernambuco residents braces for more rain while the state officials have reinforced its alert about the continuing risk of landslides and mudslides.

You might also like: Climate Change: Flooding Will Hit Asia the Hardest- Report

Featured image by : Clauber Cleber Caetano/PR 


About the Author

Olivia Lai

Olivia is a journalist and editor based in Hong Kong with previous experience covering politics, art and culture. She is passionate about wildlife and ocean conservation, with a keen interest in climate diplomacy. She’s also a graduate of University of Edinburgh in International Relations with a Master’s degree from The University of Hong Kong in Journalism. Olivia was the former Managing Editor at Earth.Org.

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