MANAUS, Brazil (AP) – According to data released Tuesday by Manaus Port Authority, rivers around Brazil’s largest Amazon rainforest city have swelled to levels never seen in more than a century of record keeping , putting a strain on a society that has grown weary of increasingly frequent floods.
The Rio Negro was at its highest level since the records began in 1902, with a depth of 98 feet at the port’s measuring station. The nearby Solimoes and Amazon rivers were also approaching record highs, inundating streets and homes in dozens of municipalities and affecting some 450,000 people in the region.
Higher than usual precipitation is associated with the La Nina phenomenon, when currents in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean affect global climate patterns. Experts and environmental organizations, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, say there is strong evidence that human activity and global warming are altering the frequency and intensity extreme weather events, including La Nina.
Seven of the 10 largest floods in the Amazon basin have occurred in the past 13 years, according to data from the National Geological Office of Brazil.
“If we continue to destroy the Amazon like we are doing, the climatic anomalies will become more and more accentuated,” said Virgílio Viana, director of the Sustainable Amazon Foundation, a non-profit organization. “Bigger floods on one side, bigger droughts on the other.”
Large swathes of Brazil are currently drying up in a severe drought, with a possible shortfall in electricity production from the country’s hydroelectric plants and rising electricity prices, government officials have warned.
But in Manaus, Julia Simas, 66, has water up to her ankles at home. Simas has lived in the popular Sao Jorge neighborhood since 1974 and is used to seeing the river rise and fall with the seasons. Simas loves his neighborhood because it is safe and clean. But the accelerating rate of flooding over the past decade worries him.
“From 1974 until recently, many years went by and we couldn’t see any water anymore. It was a normal place,” she said.
When the river overflows from its banks and floods its street, she and other residents use planks and beams to build rudimentary scaffolding in their homes to raise their floors above the water.
“I think human beings have contributed a lot to this situation,” she said. “Nature does not forgive. She comes and does not want to know whether you are ready to face her or not.”
The floods also have a significant impact on local industries such as agriculture and cattle ranching. Many family farms have seen their production disappear under water. Others were unable to reach their stores, offices, market stalls or customers.
“With these floods, we are out of work,” said Elias Gomes, a 38-year-old electrician in Cacau Pirera, across the Rio Negro, although he noted he was able to earn a little by carrying neighbors. in his little wooden boat.
Gomes is now looking to relocate to a more densely populated area where flooding will not threaten his livelihood.
Limited access to banking services in remote areas of the Amazon can make the situation worse for residents, who are often unable to obtain loans or financial compensation for lost production, said Viana, of the Sustainable Amazon. Foundation. “This is a clear case of climate injustice: those who have contributed the least to global warming and climate change are most affected.”
Meteorologists say water levels in the Amazon could continue to rise slightly until late June or July, when flooding typically peaks.