At least 35 people died amid heavy rains in northeastern Brazil on Friday and Saturday, as downpours hit two major cities on the Atlantic coast, in what is the South American nation’s fourth major flood. in five months.
In Pernambuco state, at least 33 people had died Saturday afternoon as rains triggered landslides that swept through hillside urban neighborhoods, according to the state’s official Twitter account. According to the state government, another 765 people have been forced from their homes, at least temporarily.
Authorities in the neighboring state of Alagoas have recorded two deaths, according to Brazil’s federal emergency service.
In late December and early January, dozens of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced when rains hit Bahia state, also in northeast Brazil. At least 18 people died in floods in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo later in January. In February, torrential downpours in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro state killed more than 230 people.
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While much of Brazil spent most of 2021 in severe drought, unusually heavy rains began arriving in the final months of the year.
The often-deadly floods that followed sparked debate about the potential role of climate change in Brazil’s volatile climate and drew attention to the country’s often haphazard urban planning.
Most of the deaths on Friday and Saturday occurred in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state. As in many urban areas in Brazil, many neighborhoods in Recife were built in places vulnerable to landslides and landslides.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was setting up a federal task force to be sent to Pernambuco on Saturday, according to local media.
His main opponent in the October presidential election, leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, lamented the flooding on Twitter.
“My solidarity with the families of the metropolitan area of Recife who are suffering from the heavy rains,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Editing by Sandra Maler)