The torrential rains that caused flooding and landslides around Recife, in northeastern Brazil, killed at least 106 people, according to a latest report provided Tuesday, May 31 by local authorities. The government of the state of Pernambuco, of which Recife is the capital, also reports eight missing, while searches continue in the most affected areas.
More than 400 firefighters were still mobilized on Tuesday. The “search continues unabated until all these people are found”, said Humberto Freire, head of civil defense of Pernambuco, quoted in the press release. In Jardim Monteverde, on the border between Recife and the town of Jaboatao dos Guararapes, where several dozen people were buried by a mudslide, the search ended, the bodies of the last three people missing having been found Wednesday.
More than 6,000 people in the Recife region have also lost their homes and had to be accommodated in reception structures, according to the latest report from the authorities. A state of emergency has been declared in twenty-four municipalities in Pernambuco.
In one night, 70% of the monthly precipitation
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the flooded areas on Monday and the government released a loan of one billion reais (about 198 million euros) to help the victims. The head of state has been criticized for declaring that this type of disaster is “things that happen”after in particular a similar tragedy that claimed 233 lives in Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro (southeast), in February. Other deadly floods took place at the end of last year in the state of Bahia (northeast), then in January in the southeast, in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.
Between Friday evening and Saturday morning, it rained the equivalent of 70% of what is normally expected for the whole of May in certain areas of Pernambuco. The specialist in natural disasters, José Marengo, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that these exceptional precipitations were due to global warming, but were above all deadly because of uncontrolled urbanization.
“Rain itself does not kill. What is deadly is the rain on homes located in risk areas”, explains this research coordinator of the National Center for Monitoring and Warning of Natural Disasters in Brazil (Cemaden). According to him, the authorities are “guilty” having “allowed construction in risk areas, where poor populations live who have nowhere to go”.