From: Associated Press
Published October 12, 2005 12:00 AM

Brazilian Governor Declares Amazon River a Disaster Area

SAO PAOLO, Brazil — Authorities declared part of the Amazon River a disaster area after a drought left the levels of parts of the river too low for navigation, officials said Tuesday.


The government of the jungle state of Amazonas declared the disaster on Monday, freeing up money, food and medicine to scores of river communities that now can be reached only by air, government spokesman Hiel Levy said by phone.


"All these communities are having difficulty finding supplies. We're working to make sure they don't run out," Levy said by phone from Manaus, 1,660 miles northwest of Sao Paulo.


The level of the Amazon rises and falls regularly, but this year the dry season has been more severe than normal. Officials said the water levels in areas about 35 miles upstream from Manaus have dropped several feet to about five feet, making it hazardous for river boats and difficult for fishing, a key occupation.


"We're worried," Manaquiri Mayor Jair Souto told the Associated Press. "We have about 25,000 people whose basic food is fish. We're a community of fishermen."


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Officials said Amazonas Gov. Carlos Eduardo de Souza Braga spoke with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva about the problem and sent workers to dig wells to supply isolated communities with drinking water, which previously was drawn from the river.


Water levels are expected to rise in early November at the start of the rainy season.


Source: Associated Press


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