Persistent Brazil Floods Raise Specter of Climate Migration -Reuters

Ongoing flooding in southern Brazil is forcing many displaced residents to consider relocating from inundated towns to higher ground. Two weeks after heavy rains began, the Guaiba River near Porto Alegre is rising, surpassing previous records. In Rio Grande do Sul, streets in numerous towns have become flowing rivers.

In the Porto Alegre area, where four rivers meet to form the Guaiba River, around 3,800 square km (1,500 square miles) flooded, surpassing the urban size of the Washington DC metro area. Hundreds of thousands of families are fleeing the floods. The disaster, claiming at least 147 lives with 127 still missing, may trigger one of Brazil’s largest climate migrations.

Southern Brazil, positioned where tropical and polar currents converge, experiences heightened droughts and rains due to climate change, say scientists. Rio Grande do Sul witnessed severe flooding last year, prompting 538,000 displaced residents to contemplate extreme adaptation measures.

For the third time in seven months, businessman Cassiano Baldasso had to remove wheelbarrows of mud from his home in Muçum, a small town 150 km (90 miles) upriver from Porto Alegre, only to see the waters rise again. He said: “He has had enough.”

“I have no idea where I’m going, but it will be somewhere far from the river, where our lives will not be at risk,” Baldasso told Reuters as he removed another cart of mud from inside the house.

ارتفاع عدد ضحايا فيضانات البرازيل لـ29 قتيلا و60 مفقودا - بوابة الشروق - نسخة الموبايل

Mayor’s Plan for Relocation, Rebuilding

Mayor Mateus Trojan plans to relocate many of Muçum’s 5,000 residents and rebuild 40% of the town elsewhere. In September, Baldasso saved his family by climbing onto the roof of their two-story house until the fire brigade rescued them in the middle of the night.

During the flood, Maria Marlene Venancio’s house was swept away nearby, resulting in the loss of all her belongings. This month, the rented house she relocated to was flooded 1.5 meters (5 ft) deep. Now, she fears it’s time to leave Muçum.

“I think the town will become a river one day, and it will be difficult for us to live here. People with money are all leaving,” she said.

Governor Eduardo Leite estimates Rio Grande do Sul needs at least 19 billion reais ($3.7 billion) for rebuilding after the disaster. The federal government plans to freeze 11 billion reais of debt payments for three years. In Muçum and nearby towns, receding waters reveal desolate scenes with piles of furniture, clothing, and appliances outside houses.

Environmental experts warn that there is no alternative for some towns in the state but to relocate entire neighborhoods.

“We need to move urban infrastructure away from high-risk environments and return space to the rivers … so they no longer impact cities with such magnitude,” said ecologist Marcelo Dutra, professor at the Rio Grande Federal University. “We can’t oppose nature. We have to wake up to this force that is telling us we need to adapt and respect nature.”

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