Weather tracker: torrential rainstorms cause death and destruction in Brazil

Last Updated: June 18, 2024By
Brazil Faces Worst Flooding in 80 Years

Torrential rainstorms have ravaged Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, causing the worst flooding the country has seen in 80 years. The relentless downpour has led to many deaths and forced thousands of families to flee their homes. The storms, which started last Monday, hit the central parts of the state the hardest. Unofficial weather stations recorded between 50-100cm (20-40 inches) of rain in just a week.

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Unimaginable Destruction

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The floods and landslides have wreaked havoc on homes and infrastructure. The most frightening incident was the partial collapse of a small hydroelectric dam on Thursday. This collapse unleashed a massive 2-metre-high wave that swept through the area. At least 57 people have lost their lives, and around 24,000 have been displaced. Additionally, about 500,000 people are now without power and clean water.

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A Year of Heavy Rain

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This region of South America is no stranger to heavy rain. In fact, Rio Grande do Sul has experienced flooding three other times in the past year. This happens because the polar and tropical air masses meet around this area, creating high pressure zones. These zones bring long dry periods interrupted by heavy rain bursts. However, this event has been particularly severe. Experts say the increased rainfall is due to global warming and the recent El Niño phenomenon, which warms the waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

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More Rain Expected in Uruguay

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Just south of Rio Grande do Sul, Uruguay is preparing for similar heavy rain this week. Forecasts predict intense storms across the country until Wednesday, with some areas expecting 20-25cm of rain.

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El Niño’s Far-Reaching Impact

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El Niño is not only causing problems in South America. It’s also behind the ongoing catastrophic rainfall in East Africa. Since March, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi have been experiencing severe flooding. Reports indicate that over 400 people have died and nearly 250,000 have been displaced.

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Tropical Storm Hidaya Hits Tanzania

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As if that wasn’t enough, Tanzania was hit by an unusually strong tropical storm on Friday. This is rare so close to the equator. The storm, named Hidaya, strengthened to a tropical cyclone as it approached Tanzania, becoming the most powerful storm ever recorded in the region. With winds up to 80mph, it created waves 2 meters high. Though Hidaya weakened to a severe tropical storm before making landfall south of Dar es Salaam, it still brought up to 10cm of rain to the surrounding areas.

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Despite the region’s experience with heavy rainfall, the combination of global warming and El Niño has made this year’s events particularly devastating. The people of Rio Grande do Sul, along with those in East Africa, are facing incredibly challenging times as they deal with the aftermath of these natural disasters.

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