Authorities announced on Sunday that two dams in the northern Brazilian state of Bahia fell way following weeks of torrential rainfall, swamping already large local waterways and causing flooding in cities across the region.
The Igua dam, located on the Verruga river near Vitoria da Conquista in southern Bahia, collapsed on Saturday night, causing officials to evacuate inhabitants, mostly in the municipality of Itambe.
On Sunday morning, a second dam broke way to rising water levels in Jussiape, 100 kilometers to the north, prompting additional families to flee to higher ground.
The dam failures did not result in any deaths or injuries, although bridges and roads were destroyed.
Residents stuck in their homes in the downtown region of Itabuna, a population of 200,000 people, were rescued by fire brigade crews, according to Reuters reporters.
“It’s crazy by the bridge; there are waves over 2 meters high,” shopkeeper Luiz Constancia told Reuters.
Rescuers rowed dinghies through flooded streets to reach stranded families or provide supplies to them. To get to his house, one man paddled on an inflatable mattress.
Residents said that the Cachoeira river, which passes through the village, which is located 30 kilometers from the seaside port city of Ilheus, was at its greatest level in 50 years.
Mayor Sheila Lemos of Vitoria da Conquista stated all people near the collapsing Iguazu dam had been evacuated.
According to a message on the city’s website, floods threatened to block off the BR-116 highway, a major transport route connecting northeastern and southern Brazil.
According to Bahia Governor Rui Castro, at least 400,000 people have been affected by the severe rains, and many have been evacuated from 67 towns that have been suffering emergency situations owing to floods induced by high rainfall for over two months.
“Thousands of people have been forced to flee their houses since the water rose one or two meters, even three meters in certain spots,” he told reporters on Saturday.
According to civil defense officials, the rains have killed 18 people in Bahia since the beginning of November, including a 60-year-old ferry owner who drowned on the overflowing Rio das Contas river.
Weather officials in the state capital of Salvador reported that December rainfall was six times more than typical.