Heavy Rains Leave Brazil Indigenous Group Homeless Again

SAO JOAQUIM DE BICAS, BRAZIL — 

Three years ago, the collapse of the tailings dam at an iron ore mine forced members of the Pataxo-Hahahae tribe to move their homes to higher ground.

Now, the rain-swollen Paraopeba River has flooded their new village and left them homeless again.

About 50 Pataxo-Hahahae tribe members have taken shelter in a local school, but their houses in the village of Nao Xoha have been contaminated by muddy, tailings-filled waters of the river.

“We lost houses. We lost bathrooms. We lost our medical center. We lost furniture. Our community is all flooded,” Chief Sucupira Pataxó-Hahahae said on Wednesday. “It makes your heart bleed.

A house is seen at a flooded area after pouring rains in Mario Campos, in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Jan. 12, 2022.

“The water contaminated by ore flooded our homes and backyards. There’s no way we can live there anymore. We have a lot of kids,” he said.

Heavy rains have pounded the mining region of Minas Gerais state in southeast Brazil relentlessly for the past two weeks, causing dams to overflow and flooding towns and roads. More than 20 people have died.

In January 2019, a dam collapsed at a mine near Brumadinho owned by giant miner Vale SA, releasing a mudflow that crashed through the mine’s cafeteria and buried houses and farms, killing 270 people.

No Pataxo-Hahahae died in the disaster. But miles downstream, their way of life became unsustainable on the banks of a polluted river where they had bathed, washed their clothes and fished for their main source of food.

The village had 80 residents at that time, who had to uproot everything and move to safer ground 30 meters (98 feet) away from the river. Now that new site is under water.

“It is so sad to see this happen again,” said Marina Pataxo-Hahahae, looking out at her flooded backyard.

Reuters

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Published on 2022-01-12

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Originally posted as: Heavy Rains Leave Brazil Indigenous Group Homeless Again, made available by Voice of America under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license.


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