186,000 homeless in Brazilian floods

Floods and mudslides from months of heavy rains in northern Brazil have driven more than 186,000 people from their homes, killed at least 19 and cut off shipments from a huge Amazon iron mine, the Associated Press reported, citing local officials. At least seven Brazilian states, mostly in the Amazon region, have been affected by the rains.

Heavy rain is expected for at least two more weeks. Worst-affected so far is the state of Maranhão, which lies along the country’s Atlantic coast and south of the mouth of the Amazon River. A civil defence official said six major highways have been swamped, cutting off thousands of people and leaving long lines of stranded cargo vehicles.

The rains also prompted the temporary closure of a railway that transports 1,300 people a day as well as carrying iron ore from the sprawling Carajás mine in the neighboring jungle state of Pará. Iron ore, the main ingredient in steel, is shipped abroad from Maranhão’s capital, São Luís.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva flew over the hardest-hit areas, delivered food baskets to shelters, met with local officials and promised aid to repair infrastructure. He also voiced concerns that global climate change could be responsible for the unusually heavy rains and destruction. “We need to look more seriously into the climate situation these days,” he said. “Something is changing and we still have time to fix it.”

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