Weeks of heavy rainfall over the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia (population 15 million) caused massive floods and damage, leaving at least 18 people dead, nearly 500 000 affected, and 35 000 displaced. Parts of the state, including capital Salvador, have already received 6 times their normal December rainfall.
Heavy rains started affecting the state in early November but the situation worsened in recent days, when two dams collapsed, flooding already heavily affected areas.
The Igua dam on the Verruga river near the city of Vitoria da Conquista, collapsed on December 25, forcing authorities to evacuate residents, mainly in the town of Itambe. All residents of Vitoria da Conquista were forced to evacuate due to collapse.
The second dam collapsed in Jussiape, some 100 km (62 miles) north of Igua, on December 26, bringing more alerts for residents to move to safer ground.1
Further toward the coast in Itabuna (population 200 000), fire brigade teams rescued residents trapped in their homes in the downtown area that was underwater, Reuters reported.
Residents said the level of the Cachoeira river that runs through the town was the highest in 50 years.
At least 18 people have been killed since the floods started, more than 430 800 affected and 35 000 forced to evacuate their homes.
By December 26, the number of municipalities that declared a state of emergency rose to 72, of which 58 are in crisis, the Bahia civil protection agency said.2
Until December 25, the number of municipalities on the list was 25.
One of the worst affected cities is Ilheus where Bahia Governor Rui Costa surveyed damaged areas by plane, describing what he saw as an enormous tragedy.
"I don't remember something of this dimension in Bahia's recent history. The number of homes, streets, and towns completely underwater is truly terrifying," Costa said.
Rui called the population to help raise awareness of people living in risk areas.
"If you know anyone in any of these cities who lives in an at-risk area, tell them to leave their homes. If you live in lower areas, don't resist leaving your house, if the water started to arrive, leave the house immediately, look for a safe place, a friend's house, a relative's house, or a city hall shelter."3
In the state capital of Salvador, weather officials said December rainfall has been six times greater than the average. Salvador's average rainfall in the month of December is 51 mm (2 inches).
1 Dams burst in northeastern Brazil as region hit by floods – Reuters
2 Brazil flooding death toll mounts, thousands more displaced – AFP
3 Governor Rui Costa remains in Ilhéus coordinating actions to support the population affected by the rains – Bahia Government
Featured image: Flood damage in Itamaraju, Bahia, Brazil – December 2021. Credit: Bahia Government
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