“Between [January 23 and 26], rain in Belo Horizonte [has been] 312 millimeters,” said Amete Fernandez, a meteorologist at Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology, in an interview. That’s a staggering 12.3 inches or about a month’s worth of rain in four days.
“We had many floods. It’s terrible,” said Fernandez. “We have a big river that [flooded] last night.”
According to the Associated Press, at least 53 people have been killed and 6.7 inches fell within 24 hours alone between Thursday and Friday, breaking a record that had stood for more than a century.
Fernandez emphasized that the waterlogged soil is causing numerous fatal landslides.
Heavy rain has plagued much of Minas Gerais, the state in which Belo Horizonte is located. An unusually active summer monsoon has featured relentless deluges, which were made worse when a subtropical storm formed off the coast Thursday.
The storm, named Kurumi, slowly moved out to sea — but in its wake, a narrow zone where winds were converging, causing the air to rise, cool and condense into clouds and heavy showers, helped focus heavy rains repeatedly on the same area.
Such convergence zones can generate powerful thunderstorms that produce exceptional rainfall rates. Forecasters at the National Institute of Meteorology warned on Thursday that this convergence zone could trigger flooding downpours in southeastern Brazil.
The convergence zone responsible for Belo Horizonte’s prolific rainfall and flooding will begin to weaken and drift southward through Friday, though heavy rains could target Paraguay before then.
“The convergence zone will finish between today and tomorrow,” Fernandez said. “Then, the rain [will be reduced] in these areas.”
She anticipates lesser rains to continue in the central and western portions of Minas Gerais during the coming days. Additional rainfall amounts of 0.5 to 1.5 inches are possible in Belo Horizonte.