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Brazil – After the floods, the distress and the controversy
– After the floods, the distress and the controversy
Floods in northeastern Brazil have affected more than 140 towns, killing more than 24 people and displacing 90,000 since the end of November.
Residents of Bahia state in northeastern Brazil were on Wednesday trying to save what they could from the rubble after flooding caused by heavy rains, with President Jair Bolsonaro’s absence on the ground widely criticized . The human toll has further increased, amounting to at least 24 dead since the end of November.
The floods affected 140 municipalities, or a third of municipalities in Bahia, affecting nearly half a million people and displacing more than 90,000. Meteorologists now fear that violent rain-laden thunderstorms will reach the densely populated states of southeastern Brazil in the coming days, especially those of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
In Itapetinga, one of the hardest hit towns in southern Bahia, Carlos Batista da Silva points to a mark on the wall above his head that shows the level the water has reached.
“We tried to remove the furniture, but we didn’t have time. We were only able to save TV, ”he told AFP.
“We lost everything”
In Itambé, another town in the south of Bahia, Watson Gomes shows what remains of his father-in-law’s house: a section of wall and a pile of wood, the remains of destroyed furniture. “We’re trying to see what we can save in the rubble. In some houses, the door had to be broken down to help the elderly to get out, ”he says.
“When I was able to return to my house, I had water up to the navel. We lost everything, it’s total destruction, ”says Eliane Silva, another resident of Itambé. In cities where the water level has started to drop, mountains of rubble appear, in a desolate landscape. Access to the most affected areas is only possible by inflatable boat or helicopter.
But other localities remain under the threat of new floods and residents had to be evacuated as a preventive measure. Bahia firefighters are closely monitoring a dozen dikes near the rupture and rivers that threaten to overflow. In total, more than 40 roads were damaged.
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is jet-skiing
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed a decree authorizing an extraordinary loan of 200 million reais (about 21 million euros) for the repair of infrastructure in five states affected by the rain, including 80 million allocated to Bahia. But the governor of Bahia, Rui Costa, said Tuesday that these funds were “insufficient”.
“The extent of the destruction is impressive. It looks like there was war ”, insisted this elected representative of the Workers’ Party (PT, left) of the left-wing ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, favorite against Jair Bolsonaro for the presidential election of October 2022 On Monday, Rui Costa already described the flooding in his state as the “worst disaster in the history of Bahia”.
President Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his absence: several ministers flew over the disaster areas on Tuesday, while he displayed himself in a jet-ski on a beach in the state of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil. “I hope I don’t have to cut my vacation short,” the head of state told supporters, according to the Santa Catarina ND Mais local news site. The hashtag #BolsonaroVagabundo (lazy Bolsonaro) has been one of the most used in Brazil on Twitter in recent days. On Wednesday, the Head of State contented himself with posting on social networks a video of a Navy helicopter bringing food, with the message: “still there in Bahia”.
“It’s not just irresponsibility, it’s a lack of compassion. Almost 500,000 people have been affected by the floods in Bahia and where is the president? ” Left MP Marcelo Freixo launched on Twitter on Wednesday. Many celebrities have mobilized to call for donations to help the victims, including singers Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, from Bahia.