Deadly flooding hits Brazil as World Cup begins

• June 13, 2014
Torrential rainfall in the Brazilian state of Paraná has claimed more than a dozen lives and forced more than 33,000 people to evacuate. Creative Commons: Antonio Thomas, 2010

Torrential rainfall in the Brazilian state of Paraná has claimed more than a dozen lives and forced more than 33,000 people to evacuate. Creative Commons: Antonio Thomas, 2010

As the World Cup kicks off, a state of emergency has been declared in 130 Brazilian cities, including host city Curitiba.

Over the course of several days, torrential rainfall in the southern state of Paraná has claimed more than a dozen lives and affected nearly half a million people.

Across Paraná more than 33,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. Meanwhile, in neighboring Argentina and Paraguay evacuations have topped 100,000 people.

Two main rivers in the region have swelled to historic levels thanks to heavy rainfall, forcing local authorities to open the floodgates on two hydroelectric dams above Iguazu Falls. The world-renowned tourist attraction is closed to visitors after reaching an astounding flow of 46,300 cubic meters per second—33 times the usual rate.

Iran and Nigeria are scheduled to play their first game at Curitiba’s Arena de Baixada on Monday (16 June). But there’s no guarantee that conditions will improve by the match, as even more heavy rainfall is forecasted for today.

Brazil is no stranger to flooding, but it’s uncommon for the time of year, with June through to August normally the country’s dry season.

The unusual weather has been linked to the El Niño phenomenon, which has a 90% chance of occurring this year and is commonly associated with destructive flooding in South American and Pacific nations. Earlier this year, scientists warned climate change could be increasing the occurrence of strong El Niño events.

Research by the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change has also warned the south and south-east of the country could see up to a 30 percent increase in rainfall in a warming climate.

This week’s flooding is just the latest example of extreme weather in what has been an unusual year for Brazil. During January and February—what is usually the rainy season—much of the country was plagued by extreme heat and drought that has caused water shortages in São Paulo, stoked fears of energy shortages, and scorched farmers’ fields.

The drought has already doubled the price of Brazilian coffee, and an El Niño weather event would only make things worse.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if greenhouse gas emissions are not sharply cut, Brazil should expect to see decreased water availability, large-scale extinctions of plant and animal species, and coastal flooding thanks to climate change.


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