44 dead and over 300,000 homeless after flooding in Brazil

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Floods affecting five states in northeastern Brazil have left hundreds of thousands homeless and have taken 44 lives. Heavy rainfall which began in early April has caused overland flooding that has destroyed homes in the region and landslides that have blocked roads, including 6 major highways, and a railway.

Stock photo: Thunderstorms over Brazil

The Associated Press reports that over 300,000 are homeless in north eastern Brazil, and CNN states 270 communities have been affected by overland water from flooded rivers. This flood has been the worst to strike the area since the 1950s and officials estimate damages at one billion reais (about US$482 million).

Civil defence authorities placed the homeless figure at about 185,000 as of Saturday. Emergency shelters have taken in some of the homeless, and friends and relatives have opened their doors to others who have been forced from their homes.

The five states affected the greatest by the 2009 Brazil flood highlighted in blue

Maranhão has been hit the hardest, and has lost nine residents, two due to electrocution. The state has declared a state of emergency as over 40,000 are homeless and without water. A canoe with seven people aboard capsized. Police and firefighting officials are searching for two who are still missing.

Twelve deaths have been reported in the state of Ceará. Bahia on the Atlantic coast has suffered seven fatalities.

The state of Amazonas has lost eight people so far. The Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon, has been rising.

Piauí is suffering from two swollen rivers, no electricity due to power failures, and no potable water.

The Brazilian government began to send food via military cargo planes on Friday. The government has also sent out rice and beans by boat and helicopter to a few places. Officials verify that they are sending out as much aid as possible. Land slides combined with overland waters have washed out roads are making deliveries challenging.

Emergency flood crews are struggling to open roads and pathways for food, supplies and aid.

2008 Santa Catarina Floods
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"We have to go out and find food because almost nothing's arrived here," said a victim helping out in an emergency shelter. Homeless people huddled together by the thousands in tents and cow pens are fishing and leaving by canoe to find food.

Besides drowning, electrocution is also taking victims. rattlesnakes and anacondas, and alligators are also displaced and are swimming through partially submerged communities in the swollen waters.

This northeastern region of Brazil typically endures drought-like conditions. meteorologists are baffled by the deluge of rain which hit the area for the past fourteen days. Precipitation is estimated to continue for another week and half.

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