Downpours in Brazil leave 34 dead
Flooding, landslides force 1,000 people to flee homes
Published: May 29, 2022 06:28 PM Updated: May 29, 2022 06:22 PM

Firefighters evacuate residents from a flooded area in Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil on May 28, 2022. Photo: AFP
Firefighters evacuate residents from a flooded area in Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil on May 28, 2022. Photo: AFP

Torrential rains that have plagued Brazil’s northeastern Pernambuco State since Tuesday have left at least 34 dead, 29 of which occurred over the previous day, according to the latest official update.

“From last Wednesday until midday this Saturday, 34 deaths were recorded in the state,” said the Civil Defense in a statement.

The most dramatic event occurred early Saturday morning when 19 people died in a major landslide in the Jardim Monteverde community, on the border between state capital Recife and the municipality of Jaboatao dos Guararapes.

Six others were killed in another landslide in the municipality of Camaragibe. Two died in Recife and another in Jaboatao dos Guararapes. 

Five others died earlier in the week, according to the Civil Defense.

Local press reports said three were killed by a landslide in Olinda, and a fourth person died after falling into a canal, also in Olinda. 

The heavy rains have also forced almost 1,000 people to flee their homes due to the flooding and landslides.

President Jair Bolsonaro, in a tweet, expressed his “sorrow and solidarity to the victims of this sad disaster” and said his government will do everything possible “to alleviate the suffering.”

He added that teams from the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Citizenship are being deployed “to assist in relief operations and provide the necessary aid to affected families.”

Videos posted on social media show wide flooded avenues in several municipalities, collapsing houses and landslides.

According to meteorologist Estael Sias, of the MetSul agency, the heavy rains lashing Pernambuco and, to a lesser extent, four other northeastern states, are the product of a typical seasonal phenomenon called “eastern waves.”

He explained that those are areas of “atmospheric disturbance” that move from the African continent to Brazil’s northeastern coastal region.

“In other areas of the Atlantic, this instability forms hurricanes, but in northeastern Brazil it has the potential for a lot of rain and even thunderstorms,” he said.

The National Institute of Meteorology maintained its “red alert” through Sunday in Pernambuco, its highest level of warning for flooding and landslides.

Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the volume of rainfall reached 236 millimeters in some parts of the Pernambuco capital, according to the mayor’s office.

That is equivalent to more than 70 percent of the forecast for the whole month of May in the city.