Brazil’s government has announced $35.5m (200 million Brazilian reais) in disaster relief funds for the country’s northeast, where 20 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced by severe flooding.
A total of 116 cities in the northeastern state of Bahia were in a state of emergency on Tuesday due to heavy rains that have been pounding the region since the end of November.
Cities in at least five other states in Brazil’s north and southeast have also been flooded in recent days.
The situation in Bahia, home to about 15 million people, deteriorated significantly late on Christmas Eve, as many residents were forced to abandon their homes for higher ground after a pair of dams gave way. Rains are expected to continue in many regions throughout the week.
Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently vacationing in the southern state of Santa Catarina, announced the relief aid on Twitter early on Tuesday.
Brazilian Regional Development Secretary Rogerio Marinho said more assistance would be on the way. “We’re waiting for a more detailed evaluation (of the damage) to see what’s needed, and we’ll do what’s necessary,” he told journalists.
Bahia Governor Rui Costa said nearly 50,000 people had been displaced and 5,000 new homes would need to be constructed at the cost of $71m (400 million reais).
“The depredation is immense,” Costa told reporters. “It looks like Bahia has been bombarded.”
For days, dramatic scenes of rescue workers pulling residents from second-storey windows have unfolded across vast swaths of Bahia.
Five additional dams in Bahia are at risk of bursting, disaster relief officials have said. 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.
State firefighters said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that they were ordering the evacuation of neighbourhoods in four municipalities amid “imminent risk of floods”.
This is the heaviest period of rainfall for Bahia in the last 32 years, the National Center for Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters, a government agency, said on its website.
In southern Bahia, it rained more than five times the normal amount for this time of the year.