2012 is the year of extremes in northern Brazil. Two regions of the country’s vast north suffered their worst natural disasters in recorded history, but they were opposite disasters, with floods in the Amazon and drought in the northeast. Reuters photographers Ricardo Moraes and Bruno Kelly covered both stories. Their contrasting accounts follow:
Ricardo Moraes writes from northeastern Bahia State:
People suffering without water but full of hope, was what I found in the state of Bahia, facing its worst drought in half a century.
We flew to Salvador da Bahia and immediately left for Maracas, one of the towns most affected by the drought. We stopped for the night in Feira de Santana, where we saw women and children drawing buckets of green water from a drying reservoir to give to their livestock. Since there were only women we couldn’t approach them too closely, as our presence without their men nearby would be disrespectful, according to their culture.
As we continued our trip at dawn, a fine rain covered us nearly all the way to Maracas, one of the towns most affected, and our intended destination. The rain made me nervous to think that maybe the drought had just ended, before I had a chance to photograph it. We were told that the misty rain was normal in the 1,000-meter altitude (3,280 feet) of Maracas, and that it wouldn’t help relieve the drought. In the countryside it hadn’t rained in the past three years, not even a mist.
Outside the city we found a family harvesting the last of their surviving tomatoes to feed to their animals. They had lost 90% of this year’s crop and this little that was left wasn’t suitable for eating.