Brazil is counting the cost of the worst floods it has ever seen


Three weeks after one of Brazil’s worst-ever floods hit its southernmost state, killing 155 people and forcing 540,000 from their homes, experts have warned that water levels will take at least another two weeks to drop.
Several cities are still underwater, including the state’s capital, Porto Alegre, where 46 of the 96 neighbourhoods were flooded.
Even residents of non-flooded areas have had to endure days without electricity and potable water.
Of the seven main rivers in the state, five are still above the maximum water level, and experts say there is little hope the waters will recede anytime soon.
In just three days, the state saw the amount of rain normally seen over four months.
Since then, the rains have eased, but the floods persist – and the water levels are likely to remain high for days.
Rodrigo Paiva, another professor at IPH said that while water was gradually draining out of the Guaíba, more water was still coming in from upstream.
[Rio Grande do Sul] can no longer return to what it was before.”


It will take at least two more weeks for the water levels to recede, according to experts, following one of Brazil’s worst-ever floods that struck its southernmost state three weeks ago, killing 155 people and uprooting 540,000.

Over 77,000 displaced people are still staying in public shelters in Rio Grande do Sul, and the state government has announced plans to construct four makeshift “tent cities” to house them. The death toll in the region is still rising every day.

Eduardo Leite, the governor of the state, declared on Friday that the rebuilding expenses would be “much higher” than the 19 billion reals (£2 point 9 billion) he had previously projected.

A number of cities remain under water, including Porto Alegre, the state capital, where 46 out of 96 neighborhoods have flooded. Days without electricity and drinkable water have been experienced by even those who live in non-flooded areas.

There is minimal likelihood that the waters of the state’s seven major rivers will drop anytime soon, with five of them still above the maximum water level.

“This set of rains was typical of the climate crisis: very concentrated, with a large volume of water in a short period of time,” said Anderson Ruhoff, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul’s Institute of Hydraulic Research (IPH).

The state received the equivalent of four months’ worth of rain in just three days.

The storm resulted in overflowing rivers: the Taquari, Caí, Pardo, Jacuí, Sinos, and Gravataí. These rivers flow into the Guaíba, a large body of water that passes through Porto Alegre.

The Guaíba’s water level rose to more than five meters in just 48 hours, overflowing drainage dykes and causing floodwaters to pour into the city. The water was not contained by the effluent dams.

Grêmio and Internacional, the two biggest football teams in the region, had to postpone their games because their stadiums were submerged.

The rains have stopped since then, but the flooding is still happening, and the water levels could stay high for several days.

Additional water was still entering the Guaíba from upstream, according to Rodrigo Paiva, another professor at IPH, even though water was progressively draining out of it.

“The river floodplains above the Guaíba still contain a significant amount of stored water,” he stated. Paiva explained, “That’s why it is releasing water very slowly.”.

If there isn’t much more rain, he and Ruhoff both think that the floods will last at least until the end of May. That is the best-case scenario.

Ruhoff stated, “There is still a lot of water to drain.”. “We usually get rain every five to seven days during this time of year. Right now, cold fronts are moving through the state, which puts off the decline in water levels. “.

In the meantime, the cold front is stalled over the south due to a heatwave over central Brazil that is preventing it from moving northward.

Renowned novelist Jeferson Tenorio, who was raised in Porto Alegre but was born in Rio de Janeiro, was moved by the disaster to declare that “Rio Grande do Sul as we knew it will never exist again.”. “.

Despite being fortunate enough to live in an area spared from the floods, Tenorio, the 2021 winner of Brazil’s most prestigious literary award, cautioned that the disaster’s long-term effects extended far beyond mere physical harm.

“There will be no more of the state we knew,” he declared. “Almost everyone has experienced some form of impact, whether it be material, psychological, or bodily. Rio Grande do Sul can never revert to its previous state. “.

scroll to top