Rivers in the Brazilian Amazon area have surged to near-record levels after heavy rains flooded small towns and threatened areas hit hard by Covid-19 with another disaster.
In the Amazon state, 52 of the 62 towns and territories are underwater, and 25 have declared a state of emergency, including the capital Manaus. About 410,000 people were affected, according to the Civil Defense Service.
In Manaus, the Negro River is at its third-highest level since records began in 1920, at 29.72 m (97 feet). The geological service of Brazil expects the waters to reach 30.35 m, surpassing the record flow in 2012.
Paved footpaths have been erected in parts of the city centre, and local officials say they will erect barriers with sandbags to try to contain the water. The homes of 4,200 people were flooded in the capital.
The increased precipitation in the region is related to La Niña, a phenomenon where cooler than normal surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean lead to significant weather changes in different parts of the world.
The city of Anamã, with a population of 12,700 inhabitants, was flooded by the Solimões River. Boats and canoes became the only way to bypass the so-called “Venice of the Amazon”.
Like most inhabitants, Manoel de Oliveira Cardoso and his wife, Eliana dos Santos Madi, built wooden structures so that they could walk in the flooded rooms of their home.
“Look at the condition of my house, half-flooded, I have nowhere to keep my belongings,” he told Reuters news agency. “I’m struggling to see if I can save at least half of my belongings.”
Since Anamã experiences flooding almost every year, some homes have a second level where people move their belongings in case of severe flooding. Others were built on wooden poles to keep them above river level, locally known as palafitas, Manaus and surrounding areas.
The first cases of an extremely contagious variant of Covid-19, which has spread throughout Brazil, is one of the nations worse hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, the city’s health system collapsed, with hospitals running out of oxygen between a sharp rise in infections.