(SOURCE) Flooding has killed at least nine people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in southern Brazil ahead of the World Cup, which opens Thursday.
Torrential rains caused rivers to swell to record levels on Tuesday in Brazil and neighboring Paraguay and Argentina. 132 cities in Brazil’s Parana state have been affected, including the state capital of Curitiba, which is one of 12 World Cup host cities and will be the site of four games, the Straights Times reports. Over the weekend, torrential rains upstream in the Barigui River forced 13,000 people to evacuate the city.
“Curitiba picked up over 6 inches of rain in 48 hours late last week,” said weather.com meteorologist Nick Wiltgen. “Their average for the entire month of June is only 4 inches. Since the Barigui River is less than 50 miles long, it’s not surprising they’d see a sudden rise in water levels – but barring additional heavy rainfall, any flooding should be short-lived.”
So far, authorities in Curitiba say that flooding hasn’t hampered World Cup preparations.
Curitiba City Hall spokesman Alvaro Borba said the Arena da Baixada stadium, which will host its first game Monday, was not affected by flooding. The city’s stadium, training center, hotels and tourist sites are nowhere near the Barigui River, which overflowed its banks. He said the Spanish national team has been training normally and forecasters said rains are not expected when the stadium hosts its first Cup encounter June 16, when Iran meets Nigeria.
Iran, Honduras, Ecuador, Australia, Algeria and Russia will also compete in Curitiba.
The worst-hit areas in Brazil are nearly 200 miles from Curitiba. Parana Governor Beto Richa declared a state of emergency in 77 towns.
The torrential rainfalls of recent days also have caused widespread flooding in Argentina and Paraguay, where officials said about 100,000 people had been forced to evacuate.
The Iguazu and Parana rivers that Brazil shares with Paraguay and Argentina rose to historic levels, forcing authorities to open two major hydroelectric dams above the world-renowned Iguazu Falls, where the water flow increased nearly 30-fold, from 1,500 cubic meters per second to 43,000 meters per second, topping the previous record of 36,000 set in 1992.
The park’s viewing areas were closed to tourists and employees removed walkways that would otherwise be destroyed. On the Brazil side, the rising water swallowed the cement viewing platform where thousands of tourists usually take photos below the “Garganta del Diablo,” or Devil’s Throat.
Floodgates also had to be opened to avoid damaging the Yacreta and Itaipu hydroelectric dams that Paraguay shares with Argentina and Brazil upstream from the triple border. Hundreds of riverside homes were flooded, particularly in and around Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, directly downstream from the falls.