Thanks to La Niña – think of her as El Niño's stroppy younger sister – the first month of 2011 has been a soggy one. While the floods in Australia dominated the press, those Down Under are not the only ones battling to stay dry. Or, for that matter, in their houses.
We've put together a quick summary of some of the major floods from January 2011. Interestingly, while the mass of water unleashed on Australia would probably have drowned much of South Africa, the death toll is considerably lower there than it is here. And, although they didn't get nearly as much press as the Aussie floods, the floods and resulting landslides in Brazil have been called the "worst natural disaster in Brazilian history".
Area affected: Floods swamped an area larger than France and Germany combined in Queensland, including the capital city Brisbane. These floods were followed by floods in Victoria and flash floods in the city of Toowoomba.
Death toll: 22 dead in Queensland (35 dead since the flooding began in late November).
Number displaced: The flooding is estimated to have affected 3.1 million people across Australia. At least 70 towns were directly affected. Three quarters of the state of Queensland was declared a disaster area.
Infrastructure damage: Damage was initially estimated at around AUS$1-billion. More than 6000 sheep were washed away during the flood and 41 hectares of crops were damaged, costing the agriculture sector as much as AUS$2-billion (very close to $2-billion) in lost production and damaged infrastructure.
Aid: At least 55 000 volunteers registered to help clean up the streets of Brisbane. A public appeal for aid raised more than AUS$135-million and disaster relief payments have already topped AUS$ 227-million.
Cost: In Queensland alone, the cost of recovering from the floods is estimated at up to $20-billion. The estimated reduction in Australia's GDP is roughly AUS$30-billion.
Area affected: Described as the "worst natural disaster in Brazilian history", flooding and massive landslides wiped out entire neighbourhoods in Nova Friburgo (near Rio de Janeiro) and in Brazil's southern Santa Catarina state. A state of emergency was declared in 33 cities.
Death toll: At least 812 dead, with 417 missing.
Number displaced: More than 30 000 people were left homeless.
Infrastructure damage: Although Brazil's main export crops – soy, sugar cane, oranges, and coffee – were not badly affected by the floods, the infrastructure damage was still considerable.
Aid: President Dilma Rousseff released $60-million in immediate aid and the World Bank will lend Brazil another $485-million for rebuilding infrastructure and disaster prevention efforts.
Cost: Rebuilding is expected to cost at least $1.2-billion. Reconstruction of the city of Teresopolis alone is expected to exceed $298-million.
Area affected: Monsoon flooding and mudslides hit the island's northern, central and eastern regions.
Death toll: At least 68 dead and 26 missing.
Number displaced: More than one million people were temporarily displaced by the floods and landslides.
Infrastructure damage: 50 500 hectares of paddy land – used to grow rice – have been devastated by the floods. The Sri Lankan government warned that this damage could result in soaring food prices.
Aid: The European Union gave €2-million ($2.7-million) in emergency humanitarian aid. The UN appealed for $1-million to meet the needs of the displaced.
Cost: The cost of the damage caused by the floods could amount to $500-million.
Area affected: Following floods and heavy storms, 33 municipalities in eight of South Africa's nine provinces were declared disaster areas.
Death toll: At least 123 people have been killed (88 in KwaZulu-Natal alone).
Number displaced: Roughly 20 000.
Infrastructure damage: The government has warned that the floods may have caused as much as R160-billion worth of infrastructure damage. Preliminary estimates placed crop damage at R1-billion ($145-million) and property damage at R368-million ($52-million). At least 20 000 hectares of agricultural land have been affected. The government will not compensate farmers.
Aid: R20-million ($2.8-million) is needed to provide three months of basic aid, such as food parcels for the victims. Telkom has donated R500 000 to help the victims.
Cost: Thus far, flood damage – excluding the abovementioned infrastructure damage - has been estimated at R356-million ($51-million).