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Page last updated at 02:25 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 03:25 UK

Thousands flee Brazilian floods

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

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Aerial footage of floods in north-east Brazil in early May

Severe floods have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in the north and north-east of Brazil and at least 15 have been killed.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the worst affected areas. The government says emergency aid such as food and mattresses are being provided.

About 180,000 people across eight states are reported to have had to leave their homes.

More than 190 towns and cities have been badly affected by the floods.

For weeks, heavy rain has been causing extensive problems across the north-east of Brazil, a region more often associated with the difficulties caused by drought.

Bureaucracy

In the state of Maranhao 130,000 people are said to have been affected by flooding.

President Lula is flown over flood-affected areas in Piaui state, 5 May2009
President Lula flew over flood-hit areas to see the damage for himself

Many families are either losing their homes or being forced to seek temporary shelter.

A number of important roads in the region are impassable, and the army has been using boats to help people reach their destinations.

The governor of the neighbouring state of Piaui has declared an emergency in 19 towns and cities and has requested military assistance for those stranded by flooding.

President Lula travelled to the region on Tuesday and spoke to families staying in emergency accommodation.

Speaking to mayors from across the region, the president complained that bureaucratic laws enacted by congress were getting in the way of attempts to provide assistance to those affected.

Emergency supplies such as food, blankets and clothing are being distributed to people forced from their homes.

Such is the size of Brazil that in the south of country the problem is exactly the opposite - 95 towns and cities are now reported to be facing a crisis because of a lack of rain.


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SEE ALSO
Brazil's north-east hit by floods
05 May 09 |  Americas
Heavy Brazil floods leave 45 dead
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Thousands flee floods in Brazil
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Country profile: Brazil
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