Brazil’s three most populous states are experiencing their worst drought since 1930, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira has said.
The states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais must save water, Izabella Teixeira said after an emergency meeting in the capital Brasilia.
Izabella Teixeira described the water crisis as “delicate” and “worrying”.
Industry and agriculture are expected to be affected, further damaging Brazil’s troubled economy.
The drought is also having an impact on energy supplies, with reduced generation from hydroelectric dams.
Brazil is supposed to be in the middle of its rainy season but there has been scant rainfall in the south-east and the drought shows no sign of abating.
The crisis comes at a time of high demand for energy, with soaring temperatures in the summer months.
“Since records for Brazil’s south-eastern region began 84 years ago, we have never seen such a delicate and worrying situation,” said Izabella Teixeira.
Her comments came at the end of a meeting with five other ministers at the presidential palace in Brasilia to discuss the drought.
The crisis began in Sao Paulo, where hundreds of thousands of residents have been affected by frequent cuts in water supplies, our correspondent says.
The city’s Cantareira reservoir system, which serves over eight million people, has now dropped to 5.2% of its capacity despite recent rain, Brazil’s TV Globo reported.
Accumulated rainfall in the area of Cantareira is said to be only 33.5% of that predicted for the month, Globo’s G1 news site added.
Sao Paulo state suffered similar serious drought problems last year.
Governor Geraldo Alckmin has taken several measures, such as raising charges for high consumption levels, offering discounts to those who reduce use, and limiting the amounts captured by industries and agriculture from rivers.
Critics blame poor planning and politics for the worsening situation.
Political opponents say the state authorities failed to respond quickly enough to the crisis because Geraldo Alckmin did not want to alarm people as he was seeking re-election in October 2014, allegations he disputes.
In Rio de Janeiro state, the main water reservoir has dropped to level zero for the first time since it was built.
Environment Secretary Andre Correa acknowledged that the state was experiencing “the worst water crisis in its history”.
However, he said there was enough water in other reservoirs to avoid rationing in Rio de Janeiro for at least another six months.
Andre Correa described the situation in Sao Paulo as “infinitely worse”.
Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are asking residents and industries to reduce water consumption by as much as 30%.
Sao Paulo riot police have used tear gas to break up a protest against Brazil’s World Cup, hours before the opening match.
At least one person was arrested and five others were injured, three of them journalists.
Protesters had tried to block a road leading to the stadium where the opening ceremony will take place.
Sao Paulo riot police have used tear gas to break up a protest against Brazil’s World Cup, hours before the opening match
Further protests are planned in other Brazilian cities over the expense of hosting the tournament.
In another development, striking airport workers in Rio de Janeiro blocked a road outside the airport, demanding a wage increase and a World Cup bonus.
The strike was to have lasted for 24 hours but union leaders called it off early for legal reasons.
Striking teachers also staged a rally in Rio city centre, further disrupting traffic.
Police charged with batons and riot shields, firing rubber bullets over heads of scores of protesters near a metro station on the route to the Arena Corinthians. Riot police moved in after the demonstrators refused to clear the road.
The demonstrators had been chanting “there won’t be a Cup”.
The violence happened about 8 miles from the stadium where Brazil will play Croatia at 20:00 GMT.
Thousands of protesters in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who marched against the cost of hosting the football World Cup in Brazil have been dispersed by riot police firing tear gas.
Some demonstrators hurled stones while other burned tyres and blocked roads.
They say they are angry that billions of dollars are being spent on next month’s football tournament, rather than social projects and housing.
Protests also took place in many other cities, including the capital Brasilia.
Teachers and civil servants, among others, were also on strike across Brazil.
Thousands of protesters in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro marched against the cost of hosting the football World Cup in Brazil (photo Reuters)
In Rio, aerial images showed hundreds of people marching in rush-hour traffic on a main thoroughfare. The city will host the final match of the World Cup on July 13.
Protesters there and in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, clashed with police before beginning to disperse.
The number of people on the streets was much lower than during similar protests last year.
Some of those taking part, however, promised the demonstrations would get bigger and more frequent as the World Cup gets closer.
Last June, more than a million people took to the street over poor public services, corruption and the high cost of hosting the World Cup.
The tournament is due to kick off on June 12.
The demonstrations began earlier in the day in Sao Paulo, with one of the biggest protests in the city’s Itaquera district near the Arena Corinthians stadium, which will host the tournament’s opening match.
Protesters there demanded housing, and not stadiums, be built in accordance with FIFA standards, in reference to world football’s governing body.
“Our goal is symbolic,” said Guilherme Boulos, the head of Homeless Workers Movement.
“We don’t want to destroy or damage the stadium. What we want is more rights for workers to have access to housing and to show the effects the Cup has brought to the poor.”
The government has tried to downplay the scale of Thursday’s unrest, arguing it was not related to the World Cup.
“From what I’ve seen, these are specific claims by workers. I’ve seen nothing that is related to the [World] Cup,” Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said.
“There’s no reason to panic ahead of receiving three million Brazilian tourists and 600,000 foreign tourists [for the tournament].”
The planned protests coincide with a range of strikes, including one by the police force in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco.
The army was deployed there to provide additional support after some robberies and looting, before the strike ended on its third day.
Local media reported that, in the last 24 hours alone, 234 people were arrested. Recife, the state capital, is due to host five matches during the World Cup.
FIFA has admitted that Sao Paulo stadium where the opening match of the 2014 World Cup is due to be played in Brazil will not be ready until April.
“We have received information that it will be ready on 14 or 15 April,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
However, Sepp Blatter reaffirmed that “there’s no plan B” and the opening match will go ahead as planned in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014.
Five other stadia are still under construction.
Sao Paulo stadium where the opening match of the 2014 World Cup is due to be played in Brazil will not be ready until April
Two people died last week at the opening match venue – Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, or Itaquerao – as a construction crane collapsed.
Sepp Blatter said the venues will be ready in time: “We believe it is a question of trust. It will be done.”
He was speaking at Costa do Sauipe, a seaside resort in Bahia state where on Friday FIFA will carry out the draw that will define the groups for the opening stage of the World Cup.
On Thursday, Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said six venues – in Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Cuiaba, Manaus and Natal – would miss FIFA’s original December 31 deadline and only be ready in January.
Brazil’s other six stadiums, including a revamped Maracana stadium in Rio, were opened ahead of last June’s Confederations Cup.
The Brazilian government’s preparations for the World Cup have been repeatedly criticized, as they have run over budget and behind schedule.
Tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil went on sale today, with fans able to apply on FIFA’s website.
FIFA is expecting a similar demand to Germany 2006, when there were about seven applicants for every ticket of the 64-match tournament.
Around 3.3 million tickets will be available for the tournament.
Tickets will range in price from $90)for first-round matches to $990 for the final at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilian citizens over 60, local students and members of some social programs can purchase tickets for $23.
Tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil went on sale with fans able to apply on FIFA’s website
“It’s always difficult to predict,” said FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil.
“But I truly believe that it will be more toward to what happened in Germany than in South Africa in 2010.”
According to FIFA, the 2006 World Cup was attended by more than 3.3 million fans. Almost two million tickets were sold to the general public in South Africa, although the number of applications during the first ticketing phase was significantly lower.
All applications made before 10 October 2013 will enter a random selection draw if there are not enough tickets available to fulfill all requests.
The sales of the leftover tickets will begin on November 5 on a first-come, first-served basis. Another phase will begin on December 8 after the draw is made.
The tournament begins on June 12, with Brazil playing the opener in Sao Paulo.
Sao Paolo, Brazil’s biggest city, has some of the worst congestion problems in the world.
Friday evenings are a commuter’s worst nightmare in Sao Paulo.
That’s when all the tailbacks in and out of the city extend for a total of 180 km (112 miles), on average, according to local traffic engineers, and as long as 295 km (183 miles) on a really bad day.
Red brake lights stretch as far back as the eye can see, blinking repeatedly as drivers endure an exasperating stop-and-go journey, which can continue for hours.
“It’s like a sea. A sea of cars,” says Fabiana Crespo, as she slowly navigates the congested streets with her 10-month-old baby Rodrigo.
“For a long time I lived with my family in the south of Sao Paulo and worked on the other side of town.”
“So when I got married, I decided to move to the north of the city to be close to the office, because commuting can make your life hell,” she says.
“But after my first son was born I decided to go back to running the family business which is in my old neighborhood. So I am back to the ordeal crossing the whole city to go to work.”
For Fabiana Crespo it’s a journey that can take more than two hours of her day – each way.
Traffic jams cause problems all over the world, and not just for drivers, but in Sao Paulo they have become more than a nuisance.
Sao Paolo has some of the worst congestion problems in the world
Heavy traffic is an integral part of life and culture in this vast city of more than 11 million people.
“We have become slaves of traffic and we have to plan our lives around it,” says Fabiana Crespo.
By the time she gets back home after another stressful two-hour commute it is already evening, and her husband is waiting with their older child, three-year-old Pedro.
However, she also knows that it is a certain irony that it was in one of those terrible congestions nine years ago that she met the man she would eventually marry.
“I was with a friend in my car and he was in his car also with a friend. In the stop and go of the traffic jam we started driving side by side and then he started looking at me,” says Fabiana Crespo.
After some flirting through the car windows, Mauricio managed to convince Fabiana to give him her phone number. He called, and an enduring love story began.
“I think this is the only thing we can’t complain about in Sao Paulo’s traffic,” she says.
However, for most motorists, the story is one of frustration and local news radios dedicate considerable energy and airtime to ensure motorists are fully up to date.
There is even one station dedicated exclusively to reporting traffic conditions and alternative routes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Since it was set up seven years ago, Sul America Traffic Radio has gathered a large following of listeners who also act as reporters, calling in to update other motorists or to vent their frustrations.
During rush hour, the station has the support of a helicopter while a team of reporters is out on the road, often stuck in traffic themselves.
Among them is Victoria Ribeiro, whose job is to drive around town finding traffic jams – not in itself much of a challenge – and to find ways to escape the mess.
“I have been working with the radio since its beginnings and we can see the traffic is only getting worse, as more cars are coming onto the streets,” Victoria Ribeiro says.
The Brazilian car industry has been breaking successive production records over the last decade, as the income of millions of Brazilians has improved thanks to economic growth.
Owning a car is a widely held aspiration, offering an alternative to the city’s deficient public transport system, and the ultimate proof of belonging to the middle class.
However, while the explosion in car sales was essential to sustain Brazilian economic growth, it has also pushed Sao Paulo’s “sea of cars” to a whole new level.
“It’s like a war, because everybody seems to become very selfish once they are behind the wheel of a car,” says Victoria Ribeiro.
For those who have enough money there is another option – they can literally hover above the problem.
The combination of bad traffic and fear of crime – two major concerns in Sao Paulo – a growing helicopter industry is able to ferry around the super rich or business executives.
“If I hire a helicopter for a few hours I can hop between helipads and have three or four meetings in one day, which would be impossible if I had to move back and forth by car,” says legal consultant Sergio Alcibiades, who uses an air taxi service a few times a month.
“For me this is a tool to make money.”
The owner of Helimart Air Taxi, Jorge Bittar, says his company is enjoying an average growth of 10% per year and has 16 helicopters that rarely stay on the ground for long.
“When it comes to traffic, the worse it gets, the better it is for us.”
There may be opportunities for some but traffic jams also have a negative impact on the economy.
The heavy traffic has a huge impact on the cost of living and doing business says Claudio Barbieri, a professor in engineering and transport expert from the University of Sao Paulo.
“If you have a truck and this truck cannot make more than six to eight deliveries instead of 15 or 20, you need two trucks, so everything becomes more expensive.”
Professor Claudio Barbieri says Sao Paulo has skilled and experienced traffic engineers that somehow manage to get the city to flow, albeit slowly.
“But the big problem is that we Brazilians are terrible with planning and traffic will only become more manageable if we start looking into real long-term solutions.”
But he is also clear that a “more manageable traffic” environment is the best possible scenario that can be achieved.
“No city in the world will ever manage to end congestion because when traffic flows, people are drawn to their cars. The key is to find a balance, the point at which it is worthwhile for commuters to use public transport because it’s faster then driving,” he says.
“That way Sao Paulo needs urgently to invest more in public transport instead of building new roads and expressways that will only be filled up with more cars.”
An amateur cameraman has captured the strange moment Joao Leite Dos Santos, a drunk zoo visitor jumped into a monkey enclosure to “play with them”, and ended up with severe bite marks after the animals attacked.
Joao Leite Dos Santos, a mechanic in Sao Paulo, Brazil, admitted that he had been drinking alcohol when he went to the Sorocaba Zoo on Sunday.
Thinking that it would be fun to join the zoo’s colony of spider monkeys, Joao Leite Dos Santos climbed over a fence and swam across a dividing pool to get closer to the animals, as amused tourists looked on.
Many kept their cameras trained on Joao Leite Dos Santosand laughed as his presence in the water startled the monkeys.
An amateur cameraman has captured the strange moment Joao Leite Dos Santos, a drunk zoo visitor jumped into a monkey enclosure to "play with them", and ended up with severe bite marks after the animals attacked
A group of the long-limbed primates gathered at the water’s edge, and one in particular kept reaching out for Joao Leite Dos Santos in a bid to grab a hold of him.
Joao Leite Dos Santos moved close enough for them to grab hold of his arm.
Almost immediately, one of the spider monkeys sank its sharp teach into his wrist, while another bit his elbow and shoulder.
The monkeys are fiercely territorial and had been sizing Joao Leite Dos Santos up from the moment he climbed over the fence.
Realizing the monkeys were not in a playful mood, and now in excruciating pain, Joao Leite Dos Santos waded back towards the horrified onlookers and was dragged out of the water and over the enclosure fence.
Joao Leite Dos Santos lay on the ground for several minutes, in a growing pool of his own blood, while zoo workers tried to work out what to do.
Joao Leite Dos Santos was eventually taken to hospital, where he was treated for severe bites to his right arm and shoulder, and gave sheepish interviews to the local media. It is not known whether he will face criminal charges for his prank.