Brazil: Killing Waters Down South, Choking Fires in Brasília

Itajaí, in Santa Catarina, submerged The rain will be less this week than last and river levels began to drop over the weekend. This is the good news. The bad news is that four days of almost nonstop rain last week caused deaths and significant damage in the state of Santa Catarina.

For example, the Itajaí-Açu River basin peaked Saturday morning at over 12 meters (8 meters is normal, after which flooding takes place) and was expected to slowly drop to 10 meters by Saturday evening. Rebuilding in the area after the flooding and landslides cannot even begin until the river returns to normal and then it will also be slow.

It is estimated that over 800,000 people were affected by the rains in the state, with 57,000 dislocated and another 8,000 made homeless. Over one hundred municipalities have reported damage, with 34 of them considered disaster areas.

The Civil Defense of Santa Catarina confirmed Sunday that three people died as a result of rains that hit the state in recent days. Ronaldo Novaes dos Santos, 19, from the city of Laurentino, was in a boat with his brother when touched with his head a high voltage wire.

Another confirmed death was that of Antonio José Mendonça, 50, who was drunk an died after falling into the flooding waters in Itajaí city. Valdemiro Carminatti, 66, was working on the roof of his home in Guabiruba, when it collapsed.

A fourth death was recorded in Rio do Sul, but the Civil Defense would not confirm if the death is directly related to the rain. One resident was electrocuted by a cable from the power grid, when he rowed in a small boat in the middle of flooded homes in the city. The man’s name was not disclosed.

On Saturday morning, the Fire Department of Bombinhas found the bodies of two fishermen who had been missing since Thursday. According to the firemen, the boat disappeared when the sea was rough because of the rains. A fisherman is still missing.

Burning Season in Brasília

People arriving in Brasília in the dry season, especially in the months of August and September, are surprised that what they find is not a lush, green tropical paradise. Far from it, the landscape is bone dry and the colors almost lifeless browns, grays and black.

Brasília is not in the Amazon. It lies on a high central plateau in the middle of the savannah, Brazil’s second biggest biome after the jungle. And the central plateau savannah has a very dry dry season from April to September when brushfires are common and the wind is gusty.

This year the fires have been more intense and bigger than usual. And on Friday (September 9), after more than 90 days without rain, the relative humidity in Brasília dropped to 14% and the Fire Department registered no less than 42 fires, three of them very large and out of control.

The situation got so bad that the Brazilian Air Force used a Hercules C-130 aircraft to dump water and chemicals on a huge fire that was out of control near the capital’s Juscelino Kubitschek international airport.

“We are using the Hercules aircraft because there is a risk that the fires in that area could interfere with air traffic. After we get the fire at the Juscelino Kubitschek airport under control, we will send the aircraft to other regions as requested by the Fire Department,” declared captain Paulo Costa of the Air Force.

Another region that became a priority on Friday, September 9, was the National Forest, a protected area just outside Brasília near a town known as Brazlândia. Firemen on the ground were sending situation reports to the Air Force so a decision about using the Hercules C-130 could be made.

According to major Florindo of the Brasilia Fire Department, they have four aircraft of their own to fight fires, all of them smaller and more maneuverable than the huge Hercules that can cover an area 500 meters long by 50 meters wide and is used for big fires in areas of difficult access.

The Fire Department also has one spotter plane, used to identify fires, two helicopters that can carry buckets of water and another plane that can dump 3,100 liters of water on a fire.

Friday morning the inhabitants of Brasilia, the Brasilienses, found the dry season cloudless blue sky that usually covers the city at this time of year a dirty brownish color. They were also treated to a strange disagreeable smell in the air and smoke (was that really smoke? everywhere?) stinging their eyes.

ABr

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