Monday, October 3, 2022

Brazilian flood death toll rises amid worst disaster in Bahia

ITABUNA, Brazil, December 27. (Reuters) – The death toll from floods that hit northeastern Brazil rose to 20 on Monday as the governor of Bahia declared it the biggest disaster in state history and rescuers braced for more rains in the coming days.

Much of Bahia, home to some 15 million people, suffered from periodic flooding for several weeks after a prolonged drought gave way to record rainfall. Flooding intensified in some areas late on Christmas Eve and early on Christmas Day after a pair of dams broke, forcing residents to climb higher ground.

Rescuers patrolled in small boats around the town of Itabuna in southern Bahia, dragging residents out of their homes, including those who escaped through second-floor windows.

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Bahia Governor Rui Costa said on Twitter that 72 municipalities are in a state of emergency.

“Unfortunately, we are experiencing the worst catastrophe that has ever happened in the history of Bahia,” he wrote.

Manfredo Santana, a lieutenant colonel in the Bahia Fire Corps, told Reuters that rescuers have rescued 200 people in just three nearby cities. The strong current of the swollen Kashueira River made rescue efforts difficult.

“It is difficult to maneuver even on jet skis,” he said. “At certain points, the rescuers had to retreat.”

Bahia’s Civil Defense Agency said on Monday afternoon that 20 people had died in 11 separate municipalities.

O Globo newspaper, citing a spokesman for the state fire department, said authorities were monitoring the additional 10 dams for any signs of possible collapse.

A public infrastructure and urban planning check is being carried out just a couple of years after a mountain dam collapsed in neighboring Minas Gerais, killing about 270 people.

In a televised speech, Governor Costa, Bahia, partly attributed these chaotic scenes to “mistakes made over the years.”

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Report by Leonardo Benassatto; Screenplay by Graham Slattery Editing by Alistair Bell

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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