Brazil counts cost of worst-ever floods with little hope of waters receding soon

Last Updated: June 17, 2024By

Brazil’s Catastrophic Floods: A State Changed Forever

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The aftermath of Brazil’s recent devastating floods in its southernmost state has left a trail of heartbreak and uncertainty. Three weeks have passed since the catastrophe claimed the lives of 155 souls and uprooted 540,000 from their homes. Despite the passage of time, experts caution that relief is still a distant hope, with water levels expected to linger for at least another fortnight.

The grim tally of casualties continues to rise daily across Rio Grande do Sul, with over 77,000 souls seeking refuge in makeshift shelters. In a bid to address the escalating humanitarian crisis, the state authorities are scrambling to erect four temporary “tent cities” to provide a semblance of shelter for the displaced.

Governor Eduardo Leite grimly acknowledges that the financial toll of rebuilding will far surpass initial estimates, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the region’s future. The scars of the disaster run deep, with vast swathes of land submerged, including the state capital, Porto Alegre, where nearly half of its neighborhoods remain underwater.

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The deluge has plunged even unaffected residents into darkness, enduring days without basic necessities like electricity and clean water. Against this backdrop of despair, hope seems distant as five of the state’s principal rivers stubbornly defy expectations, swelling beyond their banks with no signs of abating.

Anderson Ruhoff, a professor at the Institute of Hydraulic Research, attributes the calamity to the unmistakable fingerprints of the climate crisis. The torrential downpours, reminiscent of nature’s fury unleashed, inundated the region with rainfall equivalent to four months’ worth in just three days.

The relentless onslaught of water breached the banks of rivers like Taquari, Caí, Pardo, Jacuí, Sinos, and Gravataí, converging into the mighty Guaíba, which bisects Porto Alegre. The rapid rise of the Guaíba’s water levels breached containment barriers, inundating the city and disrupting life as usual.

Even the hallowed grounds of Grêmio and Internacional, the region’s football giants, succumbed to the deluge, postponing matches as their stadiums transformed into waterlogged arenas.

As the rains relent, the floodwaters persist, with Rodrigo Paiva, another expert, cautioning that the slow drainage from upstream prolongs the agony. With each passing day, hope wanes as the specter of prolonged flooding looms large, threatening to engulf the region till the end of May.

Meanwhile, an unyielding heatwave in central Brazil holds the cold front in its grip, stalling its northward progression and exacerbating the crisis in the south.

Jeferson Tenorio, a native son and celebrated novelist, laments that the Rio Grande do Sul of yore is no more. Though spared the brunt of the disaster personally, he acknowledges the irrevocable changes wrought by the floods. In his poignant words, the state we once knew is forever altered, with scars etched not only on its landscape but also on the hearts and minds of its people.

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