More Than 34,000 Homeless, Another 43,000 Displaced by Floods From Month of Rain

Northeastern Brazil has been hit by torrential rain for a month, causing extensive flooding in the region which has affected over 470,000 people, leaving many homeless and displaced.

In the state of Bahia, the flooding caused extensive damage to people's homes and businesses. At least 34,163 people have been left homeless because of the floods. Another 43,000 people were displaced, according to data from the state government.

Since the beginning of the month, 21 deaths were attributed to the flood. Another 358 people were injured.

"Our first response is to help, then to shelter, to care for the population in the shelters by giving humanitarian aid, with sheets, blankets, food," Bahia's Civil Defense superintendent, Col. Miguel Filho told the Associated Press.

Bahia has not seen this kind of heavy rainfall in the last 32 years and it's ongoing, according to the National Center for Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters website.

The southern region of Bahia has received more than five times the normal amount of rainfall for this time of year.

In Bahia, 116 cities were declared in a state of emergency Tuesday because of the extensive flooding; and at least five dams are in danger of bursting, Filho said.

Brazil Floods From Month of Rain
At Least 34,000 people were left homeless and another 43,000 were displaced from the floods in Brazil. Above, a girl carries a chair in flood waters in Itapetinga, Bahia state, Brazil, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Two dams broke Sunday in northeastern Brazil, threatening worse flooding in a rain-drenched region that has already seen thousands of forced to flee their homes. Raphael Muller/AP Photo

In at least 50 cities, water surged into homes and businesses, and people were forced to abandon their belongings.

In an interview with local radio stations on Tuesday morning, Bahia's governor Rui Costa compared the situation to a "bombardment." He also said that coronavirus vaccines were lost in the floods of some cities.

"Some municipal health offices and medicine depots were completely under water," he said.

On Tuesday, the population of at least four municipalities in Bahia received warnings to leave their homes because of the increased flow of the Pardo River due to the opening of the Machado Mineiro dam's sluice gates in neighboring Minas Gerais state, according to the state government's advisory office.

Bridges and federal and state roads in the state were destroyed and have been provisionally rebuilt to allow food and other items to be brought to people in need.

"We still don't have a complete list of all the damage caused, the amount of structures that will need to be replaced," Gov. Costa said. "It isn't possible to stipulate a timeframe for recovery, because we don't have that dimension. We're guaranteeing accessibility, the detour, the temporary structure so that people can come and go."

The above-average rainfall is due to the La Nina atmospheric phenomenon, which increases precipitation in some areas of Brazil, including Bahia, the government's science ministry said in a statement last week.

The federal government has authorized emergency spending totaling 80 million reais ($14.2 million) for Bahia alone. Additional funds will be directed to other regions also affected by the rains in recent weeks, and which are still suffering the consequences.

In Tocantins state, which is adjacent to Bahia in Brazil's northern region, 22 municipalities were affected by the rains by early Tuesday afternoon. The executive director of the state's civil defense authority, Maj, Alex Matos, told the AP this number is expected to grow in the coming hours.

"We're predicting an increase in the volume of the Araguaia River, which will fill the Tocantins River even more," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thousands Flee Flooded Homes, Brazil
A woman cleans her house that was flooded in Itapetinga, Bahia state, Brazil, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. A month of near non-stop rain has caused death and destruction. Raphael Muller/AP Photo