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Severe Weather Compounds Challenges in Brazil, Madagascar

Nations face lethal flooding, landslides.


Extreme Weather

Search and rescue teams respond on Feb. 17, 2022, after heavy rains devastated the city of Petrópolis, in Brazil. (Government of Brazil photo)

Madagascar suffered its fourth powerful storm this year after Tropical Storm Dumako struck the island on Tuesday, with heavy rains across the Analanjirofo region and wind gusts up to 56 miles per hour. Two people have been reported missing and 5,100 people have been directly impacted, 900 have been displaced, according to the National Office for Disaster Management and U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

This latest storm comes on the heels of Cyclone Batsirai, which killed at least 120 people, and Tropical Storm Ana, which killed at least 51 people, according to the country’s disaster relief agency.

“The winds from storm Dumako are not as strong as those from Cyclone Batsirai. But you have to be careful about floods and landslides, which could cause deaths,” the director-general of Madagascar’s disaster management officer Gen. Elack Andriakaja told the AP.

Madagascar and other southern African nations have faced an increased number of cyclones and tropical storm activity in recent years as Indian Ocean temperatures have risen. The  U.N. Meteorological Organization has stated that the trend is likely to continue.

Even as the island nation has faced deadly rainfall levels and flooding in recent weeks, over 1 million people are experiencing famine due to the worst drought Madagascar had faced in 40 years—a pattern that countries in the region were told to prepare for by the  U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Another storm system, Tropical Storm Emnati, could make landfall in Madagascar early next week, and U.N. meteorologists have said that the region can expect 8 to 12 more storms this season.

Direct Relief is in communication with health care providers in Madagascar to understand what is needed on the ground and how to optimally respond.

Brazil Flooding and Landslides

Across the globe, Brazil has faced a series of storms over the past three months, resulting in severe flooding and landslides which have affected more than 40 cities across multiple states. Yesterday, Petrópolis, a city located in the mountains northeast of Rio de Janeiro, experienced a record 10.2 inches of rain in 24 hours, which bested the previous record of 6.6 inches, set in 1952. The amount of rain was equivalent to a month’s downpour in just three hours, which triggered flash floods and a landslide that killed at least 110 people and left at least 400 people homeless. Dozens more remain missing, according to the AP.

“The situation is almost like war… Cars hanging from poles, cars overturned, lots of mud and water still,” Rio de Janeiro Governor Cláudio Castro told journalists.

Search and rescue teams continue to respond and have saved 24 people so far, according to the Brazilian government. More heavy rain is forecast for today.

The landslides and flooding in Petrópolis follow last December’s flooding in Bahia that killed 21 people and the January landslides in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, which killed more than 40 people. In 2011, the Petrópolis area saw landslides and flooding which killed more than 900 people.

 Direct Relief staff is in communication with local organizations, offering support as needed. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization has built a strong relationship with the Ministry of Health in Rio de Janeiro, and Direct Relief has shipped personal protective equipment to support the response.

Direct Relief has sent $33 million worth of aid to Brazil and $6.7 million worth of aid to Madagascar since 2010.

Chris Alleway contributed additional reporting.

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