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Brazil sets up task force for unprecedented drought in Amazon: minister

Brazil sets up task force for unprecedented drought in Amazon: minister

Thursday, September 28, 2023, 10:45 GMT+7
Brazil sets up task force for unprecedented drought in Amazon: minister
Dead fish are seen at Piranha lake, which has been affected by the drought of the Solimoes River, in Manacapuru, state of Amazonas, Brazil, September 27, 2023. Photo: Reuters

BRASILIA -- Brazil's government is preparing a task force to provide emergency assistance to inhabitants in the Amazon region hit by a severe drought that has impacted the rivers that are their life support, Environment Minister Marina Silva said.

Low river levels and hotter waters have killed masses of fish seen floating on river surfaces, contaminating the drinking water, she said.

Brazil's Environment Minister Marina Silva attends an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil March 24, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Brazil's Environment Minister Marina Silva attends an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil March 24, 2023. Photo: Reuters

"We have a very worrying situation. This record drought has disrupted river transport routes threatening food and water shortages, and a large fish mortality is already beginning," she told Reuters in an interview.

Some 111,000 people have been affected in a region where a much of the population's protein comes from fishing, which will be suspended for some time, she added.

The civil defense agency warned that the drought could eventually impact up to 500,000 people in the Amazon.

Boat pilot Paulo Monteiro da Cruz observes dead fish at Piranha lake, which has been affected by the drought of the Solimoes River, in Manacapuru, state of Amazonas, Brazil, September 27, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Boat pilot Paulo Monteiro da Cruz observes dead fish at Piranha lake, which has been affected by the drought of the Solimoes River, in Manacapuru, state of Amazonas, Brazil, September 27, 2023. Photo: Reuters

The Port of Manaus website said the Rio Negro's water level fell by an average of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) a day since mid-September and stood at 16.4 meters (54 feet) on Wednesday, about six meters below its level on the same day of last year.

The federal task force would be airlifted by the Air Force to the states of Amazonas and Acre with water, food, medicines and other resources, Silva said.

The government also allocated 140 million reais ($27.76 million) to dredging rivers and ports in the region to keep transport flowing when water levels drop, she added.

The drought in the Amazon, like the flooding in the south of Brazil, results from the El Niño phenomenon, which warms the surface water in the Pacific Ocean. This year the impact has been greater than normal, weather experts say.

Silva said this was the effect of a periodic El Niño mixing with changes in weather patterns brought by global warming.

"We are seeing a collision of two phenomena, one natural which is El Niño and the other a phenomenon produced by humans, which is the change in the Earth's temperature," she said.

Worsened by climate change, this combination has caused drought not seen before in the Amazon and "is incomparably stronger and could happen more frequently," she added.

($1 = 5.0431 reais)

Reuters

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