Brazilian authorities issued warnings of flash floods after two dams in the northeast of the country burst on 26 December. Two dams gave way in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia after weeks of heavy rains, swamping already swollen local rivers as flooding hit towns across the region.
Home to about 15 million people, weeks of intermittent flooding have intensified in Bahia state in the last two days after a pair of dams collapsed, sending residents scrambling, reports Al Jazeera.
As per Reuters, the Igua dam, on the Verruga river near the city of Vitoria da Conquista in southern Bahia, collapsed on Saturday night, forcing authorities to evacuate residents, mainly in the town of Itambe.
A second dam gave way to rising water levels in Jussiape, 100 km to the north, on Sunday morning, bringing more alerts for residents to move to safer ground.
At least 35,000 people have been driven from their homes, with almost 19,600 having been displaced and around 16,000 forced to seek shelter, according to the civil protection agency Sudec active in the northeastern state of Bahia.
Here's what happened
The Igua dam which is situated on the Verruga River in the state of Bahia collapsed on the night of 25 December, forcing the evacuation of residents of the town of Itambe.
"A dam with a high volume of water has broken and a strong flash flood is expected to affect the municipality of Itambe in a few moments. All residents should evacuate from the banks of the river Verruga urgently,'' city authorities posted on social media.
The toll from heavy rain and flooding that has plagued the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia since November rose to 20 on Monday, amid incessant torrents that have displaced almost 63,000 people, authorities said.
Two new fatalities were recorded in the town of Itabuna: a 21-year-old man who was swept away by currents and a 33-year-old woman who was killed in a landslide, according to a local government report.
"We are living through the biggest disaster in Bahia's history," said Bahia Governor Rui Costa, who has been overseeing rescue operations in the afflicted areas since Saturday.
"The water is starting to decline at the source of the Cachoeira River and it is expected to improve in the days to come, although slowly," Costa said.
Houses were underwater and streets turned into rivers in several municipalities in the south of the state, pounded since Thursday by heavy rainfall that caused dams to burst and rivers to overflow at the weekend.
In Itapetinga, AFP aerial footage showed three men paddling on a straw mattress in a street surrounded by houses with water reaching their windows.
The number of people who have been driven from their homes by the flooding has almost doubled since Sunday to 62,796, according to the Civil Protection of Bahia.
On 26 December morning, a second dam broke in Jussiape, leading to authorities to renew calls to move to safety. State Governor Rui Costa has been overseeing relief efforts and said the task at hand is to get people to safety, reported Frontline.
Another 358 people have been injured since the onset of the heavy rains in November. In total, authorities estimate that 116 municipalities, including at least 100 that are in a state of emergency, have been affected by the heavy rains.
In Vitoria da Conquista, situated close to the collapsed Igua dam, Mayor Sheila Lemos said all residents located near the dam had been evacuated. While there have been no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, the floodwaters have damaged infrastructure in the area, including roads and bridges.
Towards the coast in Itabuna, residents, who were trapped in flooded homes in the downtown area, were rescued by fire brigade teams, Reuters reports said.
Not just this, the rescuers also rowed dinghies along the flooded streets to reach trapped people.
Mayor Sheila Lemos said all residents, who were close to the collapsed Igua dam in Vitoria da Conquista, had been evacuated.
Bahia Governor Rui Castro said around 400,000 people have been impacted by the heavy rains. Thousands have also been evacuated from around 67 towns.
With inputs from agencies