Brazil flooding forces plan for ‘tent cities’ to house the displaced

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 4:28 PM

By Lisandra Paraguassu

PORTO ALEGRE (Reuters) – Brazil’s southernmost state is planning at least four “tent cities” to accommodate some 8,000 people currently in improvised shelters due to the historic floods that have devastated the region.

Heavy rains since the end of April caused record floods that killed at least 151 people in the state of Rio Grande do Sul and left more than 100 still missing, according to state officials.

Roughly half a million people have fled their homes, with over 77,000 currently in public shelters. Scientists warn it may take a month or more for the flooding to subside, and many residents have no homes left to return to.

The state government is planning temporary structures, with individual bedrooms and collective bathrooms, kitchens and laundry for thousands of people now sheltering in schools, churches and sports arenas, said Vice-Governor Gabriel Souza.

“Part of these people, unfortunately, have nowhere to go”, he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Many public buildings serving as shelters will need to return to their normal functions, he added, and the volunteers serving their need to resume their routines.

Souza said the government has identified locations in state capital Porto Alegre and nearby Canoas and Sao Leopoldo that meet requirements to host the structures.

Authorities are also seeking at least one more serviceable location in the heavily flooded city of Guaiba.

Of the roughly 50,000 people in public shelters in those four cities, the state government estimates that around 15% will need longer-term accommodation in the temporary structures. The majority are expected to either return to their homes or find alternatives such as staying with relatives.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has announced the donation to Rio Grande do Sul of 108 units of a temporary structure normally used in refugee camps.

“These are those little houses that are modular, they can be assembled in different ways, whether to accommodate families or individuals, or to form, for example, a support space for volunteers,” said UNHCR official Silvia Sander.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Porto Alegre; Writing by Andre Romani; Editing by Brad Haynes and Aurora Ellis)