The death toll from flooding and landslides following torrential rains in northeast Brazil has reached 100, the AFP news agency and Brazil’s Folha de S Paulo newspaper have reported, citing local officials.
Mudslides have devastated entire impoverished communities outside the city of Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state. Disaster management officials for the state said on Tuesday that at least 14 people remain missing, AFP reported.
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had flown over the area on Monday, pledging to do everything possible to “ease the pain” of those affected.
Bolsonaro cited similar recent disasters in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro, in southern Bahia state and in Minas Gerais state. Flooding and heavy rain killed hundreds and forced thousands out of their homes in these areas during the past year.
“Unfortunately, these catastrophes happen in a continent-sized country,” Bolsonaro said. “We’re all obviously sad. We express our sympathy to family members. Our bigger objective is to comfort families and also, with material means, attend to the population.”
Bolsonaro announced his government will allocate $210m (one billion Brazilian reais) to assist the victims.
The number of municipalities that had declared an emergency situation in Pernambuco rose to 24 on Tuesday, according to Folha de S Paulo. The natural disaster has also forced nearly 6,200 people out of their homes, the newspaper said.
Scientists have said climate change drives heavier rainfall, increasing chances of flooding and landslides.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body tasked with assessing the science related to climate change, has labelled Recife as one of the most vulnerable metropolitan areas in the world.
“Low-lying coasts in several Latin American countries … and large cities (e.g., Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Recife) are among the most vulnerable to climate variability and extreme hydrometeorological events such as rain and windstorms, and sub-tropical and tropical cyclones (i.e., hurricanes) and their associated storm surges,” the IPCC said in a 2007 report (PDF).
In a report released earlier this year, the IPCC also warned that less affluent urban areas with no capacity to adapt to climate change will face the most risks.
“Globally, the most rapid growth in urban vulnerability and exposure has been in cities and settlements where adaptive capacity is limited – especially in unplanned and informal settlements in low- and middle-income nations and in smaller and 9 medium-sized urban centres,” it said.