Dams burst in northeastern Brazil as region hit by floods

The Igua dam, on the Verruga river near the
city of Vitoria da Conquista in southern Bahia, collapsed on Saturday night,
forcing authorities to evacuate residents, mainly in the town of Itambe.

A second dam gave way to rising water levels
in Jussiape, 100 kilometers to the north, on Sunday morning, bringing more
alerts for residents to move to safer ground.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries
caused by the dam failures, though bridges and roads were damaged.

Further towards the coast in Itabuna, a city
of 200,000 inhabitants, fire brigade teams rescued residents trapped in their
homes in the downtown area that was under water, Reuters reporters said.

“It’s crazy by the bridge, there are
waves almost 2 meters high,” shopkeeper Luiz Constancia told Reuters.

Rescuers rowed dinghies along flooded streets
to reach trapped families or take them supplies. One man paddled on an
inflatable mattress to reach a home.

Residents said the level of the Cachoeira
river that runs through the town located 30 kms from the coastal port city of
Ilheus was the highest in 50 years.

In Vitoria da Conquista, Mayor Sheila Lemos,
said all residents close to the collapsed Igua dam had been evacuated.

In a posting on the city’s website, Lemos said
the flooding threatened to cut off the BR-116 highway, a major truck route
between northeastern and southern Brazil.

Bahia Governor Rui Castro said at least
400,000 people have been impacted by the heavy rains and thousands evacuated
from some 67 towns facing emergency situations due to floods caused by heavy
rainfall for almost two months.

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“Thousands of people have had to leave
their homes because the water rose one or two meters, even three meters in some
places,” he told reporters on Saturday.

The rains have caused 18 deaths in Bahia since
the beginning of November, including a 60-year-old ferry owner who drowned on
the swollen Rio das Contas river, civil defence officials said.

In the state capital of Salvador, weather
officials said December rainfall has been six times greater than the average.

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