Brazil’s government is preparing a task force to provide emergency assistance to inhabitants in the Amazon region hit by a severe drought that has impacted the rivers that are their life support, Environment Minister Marina Silva said.
Low river levels and hotter waters have killed masses of fish seen floating on river surfaces, contaminating the drinking water, she said.
Some 111,000 people have been affected in a region where a much of the population’s protein comes from fishing, which will be suspended for some time, she added.
The civil defense agency warned that the drought could eventually impact up to 500,000 people in the Amazon.
The Port of Manaus website said the Rio Negro’s water level fell by an average of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) a day since mid-September and stood at 16.4 meters (54 feet) on Wednesday, about six meters below its level on the same day of last year.
The federal task force would be airlifted by the Air Force to the states of Amazonas and Acre with water, food, medicines and other resources, Silva said.
The government also allocated 140 million reais ($27.76 million) to dredging rivers and ports in the region to keep transport flowing when water levels drop, she added.
The drought in the Amazon, like the flooding in the south of Brazil, results from the El Niño phenomenon, which warms the surface water in the Pacific Ocean. This year the impact has been greater than normal, weather experts say.