Brazil – Thousands Displaced After More Floods and Landslides in Minas Gerais

Heavy rainfall of more than 200mm in 24 hours in some areas has caused further flooding and landslides in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where at least 15 people have died in the last few days.

Floods in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil, January 2021. Photo: Prefeitura de Brumadinho

Around 1,200 people have been displaced after wide areas of Brumadinho Municipality were flooded from the overflowing Paraopeba River on 11 January. Civil Defence also reported that 5 people died in a landslide caused by heavy rain in the municipality. Brumadinho is the location of the tailings dam tragedy of January 2019 where 270 people died.

Over 10,000 people were displaced by flooding from the overflowing Doce River in Governor Valadares municipality from around 12 January 2022. Minas Gerais Civil Defence reported around 55,000 people affected by the floods.

Flooding has also damaged homes in João Pinheiro and Oliveira municipalities, where around 5,000 people were affected.

Civil Defence reported 10 people have died in floods and landslides in the last few days in the municipalities of Belo Horizonte (1), Dores de Guanhães (1), São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo (1) Contagem (1), Ervália (1), Caratinga (1), Santana do Riacho (1), Perdigão (2) and Ouro Preto (1).

Minas Gerais has seen periods of heavy rainfall since October 2021 and the start of the rainy season. The situation worsened from around 22 December 2021 when 13 municipalities experienced severe flooding, mostly in the north. Neighbouring Bahia state was also severely affected during this period.

As of 12 January, the Minas Gerais Civil Defence reported that over 28,000 people have been displaced and 341 municipalities have declared a state of emergency since October. Civil Defence said 24 people have lost their lives in rain-related incidents, not including the fatalities that occurred when part of a cliff collapsed in Furnas Lake, near Capitólio on 08 January 2022.

As of 09 January, at least 10 fatalities were reported in the Furnas Lake disaster. Officials suggested that heavy rainfall contributed to the rock fall. The Brazilian Navy is set to investigate the causes of the accident.

Rivers and Rainfall

According to Geological Survey of Brazil (Serviço Geológico do Brasil – CPRM) the Doce river at Governador Valadares reached 6.10 metres on 12 January, which is well above flood stage of 3.6 metres. The Doce is above the danger mark in other locations in the state, including Linhares, Colatina and Tumiritinga.

Levels of the Doce River at Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil, January 2022. Image: CPRM

The period 07 to 11 January 2022 saw particularly heavy rainfall. According to figures from Brazil’s meteorological agency INUMET, Divinópolis recorded 111.2 mm of rain in 24 hours to 08 January.

The following day Ibirité recorded 207.6 mm, Florestal 183.2 mm and Belo Horizonte 144.6 mm. In 24 hours to 10 January, Dores do Indaiá saw 122.2 mm of rain. Capelhina recorded 116 mm in 124 hours to 11 January.