In the heart of the Amazon rainforest, President Lula da Silva of Brazil is engaged in a high-stakes battle to save the lungs of our planet. The recent crackdown on illegal gold miners, or garimpeiros, marks a notable shift from his predecessor’s laissez-faire approach.
The death toll from the severe flooding in southeast Brazil’s Minas Gerais state climbed to 54, according to authorities on Wednesday.
Almost half of those deaths occurred in the metro area of state capital Belo Horizonte, which is facing the rainiest month of January in 110 years, the officials further said.
On Tuesday, it rained almost 180 mm in three hours in Belo Horizonte that caused severe damage to dozens of streets even in neighbourhoods that had never flooded before.
A total of 101 towns in Minas Gerais state declared a state of emergency over the past days, and at least 28,000 people had to leave their homes.
The situation is expected to get worse in the region, as the civil defence service issued a storm warning for the next hours. The weather forecast indicates even more rain and the possibility of hail in Minas Gerais.
Earlier, the weather forecasters had said that the rain was expected to taper off on Sunday, but authorities warn that the danger of landslides remains high, especially in the Belo Horizonte area.
State Governor Romeu Zema is expected to fly over the affected areas on Sunday to evaluate the damage.
More rain is in the forecast in the coming days across Minas Gerais and for Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The period from December to April is generally the wettest across southern Brazil.
The deluge coincided with the first anniversary of the dam collapse in the Minas Gerais town of Brumadinho that killed 270 people. Eleven people are still listed as missing.
An accumulation of water and a lack of drainage caused the tailings dam rupture on January 25, 2019, according to a report commissioned by the mining firm Vale.
(With inputs from agency)