Heavy rains still pounding Brazil

Northern Brazil’s worst floods in decades now have driven an estimated 218,000 people from their homes, the Associated Press reported. At least 36 people have been killed in the flooding, caused by unusually heavy rains that have been falling for two months on 10 of Brazil’s 26 states. As officials struggled to distribute aid, people fled to higher ground.


The affected area stretches from the normally wet rainforest to coastal states known for lengthy droughts. Meteorologists attribute the rain to an Atlantic Ocean weather system that typically moves on by April — and they forecast weeks more of the same. As rains pounded northern Brazil, however, parts of the south are suffering through a two-month drought.


Flood victims waded through newly formed rivers or plied them with canoes. Civil defence officials said alligators were swimming through the city of Santarem, while anacondas, rattlesnakes and other potentially harmful reptiles were in the flood waters in many areas.


The authorities worried about thousands of people isolated for days with little food or clean water, and were rushing aid to towns and cities. Some shelters — packed with people, pets and livestock — had little food or medical supplies. In some places – including the hardest-hit state, Maranhão — aid was held up because there were no local workers to distribute it.


Rivers were still rising as much as 30 centimeters a day in Maranhão, on the Atlantic coast. Flood waters wrecked bridges and prevented relief workers from using boats on some waterways. Many roads in the country were impassable and planes were unable to land in some remote areas.


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