Disaster-hit regions of Brazil highlight climate change issues

By SERGIO HELD in Cajica, Colombia | China Global Daily | Updated: 2022-06-08 09:45

People push cars along a flooded road in Recife, Brazil on Friday after heavy rain. LUCIO TAVORA/XINHUA

Torrential rains, floods and landslides have devastated entire communities in Brazil’s Pernambuco region, highlighting the dangers posed by climate change to those who are most vulnerable.

As the region seeks to recover from the damage, experts are pressing for investment in mitigation and prevention, and for Brazil to learn from China’s example in making climate action a priority.

The rain-triggered disaster that hit the Pernambuco region recently killed at least 128 people, and thousands were forced to flee their homes.

“I have no doubt that this is the greatest tragedy facing the Recife metropolitan area, the capital of Pernambuco, in this century,” said Joao Cumaru, a political scientist in the northeastern city. “In terms of deaths, this tragedy has surpassed the largest flood that Recife has ever experienced and that occurred in 1975.”

Floods in 1975 claimed the lives of 107 people. In 1966, the same torrential rains caused the deaths of 175 people in the Pernambuco region.

Strengthening international cooperation to combat climate change is needed, said Cumaru, who noted that Brazil could learn from China’s strategy. “There’s a lot to learn in Brazil from the way China is dealing with climate change and how it’s a priority for the central government.”

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Recife is 16th in the global ranking of cities most vulnerable to climate change.

The town of Goiana, 65 kilometers north of Recife, is still flooded. Thousands of people are being sheltered in conditions of emergency and humanitarian aid has been sent.

“My relatives are fine, thank God, but many family friends and students from our social project were not so lucky and lost everything,” said Fernando Junior Gomes da Silva, a capoeira artist from the region who now lives in Poland. From his new home, he supports social projects in Pernambuco. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of music, dance and acrobatics.

“For 15 years we have been providing capoeira, boxing and mixed martial arts training for children in need. We gave this program to 80 children who needed extra work after school, but now with the flood, there are 400 homeless families living in public schools. , said Gomes da Silva.

According to official data, 9,302 people lost their homes this rainy season. Forecasts from the state weather agency are for record rains in June.

Gomes da Silva, as well as many Brazilians around the world, have set up a fundraising campaign to help those affected by the rains and floods to recover some of their assets.

Meanwhile, the Chinese community in Recife, led by Consul General Yan Yuqing, has donated more than 100,000 Brazilian rials ($20,935) in emergency goods and food.

“This rain is historic and caused a lot of loss of life and property. We have a community here that treats this land as a second home, so we held this action. All of this shows China-Brazil friendship,” Yan said.

According to the IPCC, 45.7 percent of Recife’s coastline is a “high vulnerability zone” to climate change.

The author is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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