Floods in northeastern Brazil: memories of Hurricane Katrina
Enchentes na nordeste do Brasil: Memórias do Furacão Katrina
The devastating effects of floods in the northeast area of Brazil have caused some to compare the situation to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the United States in 2005. In sheer numbers, the floods in Brazil caused far less damage than Hurricane Katrina. The floods in the states of Maranhão and Piauí have forced 300,000 people to leave their homes. The death count was 44 as May 16, 2009, and the cost of damages in the state of Piauí are estimated to be approximately R$600 million reais ($300 million dollars). On the other hand, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $80 billion in damages, killed nearly 1,900 people and displaced more than 1.5 million people.
After the devastation of Katrina, many began to criticize the Bush Adminstration for an inadequate reaction to the most disasterous hurricane in the history of the United States. Katrina exposed the widespread poverty of African-Americans in the American south to the rest of the world and many blacks believed that if Hurricane Katrina would have struck a more affluent, white city, the response would have been quicker and more effective. In Brazil, people actually have a situation in which to make such a comparison. In November of 2008, heavy rains caused flooding in the southeastern state of Santa Catarina causing more than 130 deaths, leaving more than 5,600 people homeless and forcing 9,400 people to leave their homes.
States like Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul are located in the southern part of Brazil, have the highest standards of living in the country and is populations are overwhelmingly white, 88% and 84% white respectively. The Brazilian northeastern states are poverty striken and have black majorities. Bahia is 79% black, while the states effected by the floods, Maranhão and Piauí are 74% and 75% black respectively. Some people have made accusations that the reaction to the floods by the Brazilian government are similar to actions of the American government during Katrina. The mayor of the city of Trizidela do Vale, Maranhão, Jânio de Sousa Freitas, criticized the federal government for not doing more to help the citizens of his city. Roberto Quiñiero, the owner of a small store in the city of Pedreiras, Maranhão said, “The people in the south treat the northeast as a subrace of Brazilians.”
For many years, citizens of the whiter, richer, more southern states have held derogatory, stereotypical beliefs about the supposed backwardness, lack of education and poverty of the darker citizens in the northeast. Although $2.5 million has been donated to relief funding for flooding in the northeast, more than $16 million was donated to the relief effort in Santa Catarina. Evidence of bias? At this point, it may be too early to know. The floods in the southeast damaged parts of Santa Catarina seven months ago while the disaster in the northeast is still relatively recent. Like Hurricane Katrina, both floods have been declared a national disaster. One difference between Katrina and the floods in Brazil is the fact that, unlike Katrina, which was a once in a lifetime event, disastrous floods are fairly common in Brazil. But there is one other thing that the floods of 2009 in Brazil’s northeast and Katrina of 2005 do have in common: poor black people.
Os efeitos devastadores das enchentes na região nordeste do Brasil têm causado algumas pessoas comparar a situação à catástrofe da furacão Katrina nos Estados Unidos em 2005. Em números simples, as enchentes no Brasil causou danos muito menos do que o Furacão Katrina. As enchentes nos estados do Maranhão e Piauí obrigaram 300.000 pessoas a abandonar as suas casas. O número de mortos causadas por enchentes foi 44 pelo 16 de maio de 2009, e o custo dos danos no estado do Piauí é estimado em aproximadamente R$ 600 milhões ($ 300 milhões de dólares). Por outro lado, o Furacão Katrina causou mais de US $ 80 bilhões em danos, matou quase 1.900 pessoas e deslocadas mais de 1,5 milhões de pessoas.
Após a devastação do Katrina, muitos começaram a criticar a Administração Bush para uma reacção inadequada ao furacão mais desastroso na história dos Estados Unidos. Katrina exposto a pobreza generalizada dos afro-americanos no sul dos Estados Unidos para o resto do mundo, e muitos negros acreditavam que, se o Furacão Katrina teria atingido uma cidade afluente e branca, a resposta teria sido mais rápido e mais eficaz. No Brasil, as pessoas já ter uma situação para fazer tal comparação. Em novembro de 2008, chuvas torrenciais causaram enchentes no sudeste do estado de Santa Catarina causando mais de 130 mortes, deixando mais de 5.600 pessoas desalojadas e forçando 9.400 pessoas a abandonar as suas casas.