Vast floods in Rio Grande do Sul compounded by man


Floods from torrential rains in April and May inundated downtown Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, as well as rural areas of the state. (Photo by Gustavo Mansur)

Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul struggled this month to emerge from widespread flooding that killed 169 people, injured 806, left 53 missing, and forced 5.4% of the state’s population—or over 581,000 people—from their homes. The causes were in large part natural—typical year-round rainfall augmented by atypically torrential downpours, all on a topography of stream- and river-laced flatlands prone to inundation. But man-made factors greatly exacerbated the problem. A key culprit, experts say, is intensive deforestation along riverbanks and elsewhere due to relentless agricultural expansion, a process that over time has limited the land’s ability to absorb rainwater. “This is one of the worst natural catastrophes in Brazil’s history if measured by the number of people impacted and the territorial extent of the disaster area,” José Marengo, research and development coordinator of Brazil’s National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural... [Log in to read more]

Would you like to Subscribe?