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Brazil: Heavy rain and landslides leave dozens dead

May 29, 2022

The catastrophic weather has forced dozens to flee their homes in Brazil's northeastern Pernambuco state. A red alert has been issued in the city of Recife for Sunday as well.

A woman stands on a bus stop bench as a driver of a Volkswagen van navigates a flooded street in Recife, state of Pernambuco, Brazil. (AP Photo/Marlon Costa/Futura Press)
Researchers says heavy rains and flooding in Brazil are exacerbated by climate changeImage: Marlon Costa/Futura Press/AP Photo/picture alliance

Heavy rains in Brazil's northeastern Pernambuco state have left at least 79 dead as of Sunday evening, according to authorities.

What do we know so far?

"As of 6:00 pm (2100 GMT) this Sunday, the number of people killed as a result of the rains has reached 79," the civil defense authority of Pernambuco state said in a statement, according to reporting by the Associated Press news agency.

The Minister of Regional Development Daniel Ferreira told a press conference earlier Sunday in Recife, the capital of the northeastern Pernambuco state, that at least 56 people were missing, 25 injured, 3,957 without shelter and 533 displaced. The first deaths reported by authorities took place on Wednesday.

A red alert was issued by the National Institute of Meteorology for Sunday as well in Pernambuco.

A landslide in the Ibura district in the south of the port city of Recife killed 19, Globo television channel reported.

It also said three more people were killed in Camaragibe near Recife due to another landslide. Two died in Recife itself and another in Jaboatao dos Guararapes.

Local press reports said three were killed by a landslide in Olinda, and a fourth person died after falling into a canal, also in Olinda.

The region has recently seen heavy rainfall, with more than 200 milliliters of rain falling in 24 hours in the greater Recife area, according to state officials.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro expressed sorrow, and said that forces were being deployed to provide aid and assistance. He also announced relief of 1 billion Brazilian real (€196 billion, $211 billion).

Videos circulating on social media showed flooded roads, as well as collapsing houses and landslides.

Heavy rains in northeastern Brazil due to 'eastern waves'

Meteorologist Estael Sias told news agency AFP in that the heavy rains lashing Pernambuco and, to a lesser extent, four other northeastern states, are the product of a typical seasonal phenomenon called "eastern waves."

These are areas of "atmospheric disturbance" that move from the African continent to Brazil's northeastern coastal region. "In other areas of the Atlantic this instability forms hurricanes, but in northeastern Brazil it has the potential for a lot of rain and even thunderstorms," he added.

Recife received 236 millimeters of rain between Friday night and Saturday morning, said the mayor's office. That is equivalent to more than 70% of the forecast for the whole month of May in the city. 

Floods and landslides in Brazil

Last month 14 more people were killed, also by flooding and landslides, in Rio de Janeiro.

Climate change and La Nina are responsible for the heavy downpour in Brazil, say experts.

rm, tg/wd (dpa, AFP)