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Drought state of emergency declared in Brazil's Amazon
RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) Oct 15, 2005
Brazil's northern state of Amazonas, mostly covered by the Amazon rainforest, has declared a state of emergency in all its cities except the capital due to the worst drought since 1963, an Amazonas official said Friday.

"All the state's cities, except Manaos, where it's raining sporadically, have a problem," the secretary of the state government, Jose Melo, said.

The emergency declaration affected 61 cities, he added.

"But it is the 1,200 hamlets bordering dry lakes and small rivers where the situation is the most serious: a lack of drinkable water and provisions," the official told local media.

The official state of emergency allows the state government to authorize spending without having to first put out public tenders, and obtain government assistance. The federal government already has released 2.2 million dollars to buy medicine and provisions.

Amazonas state is the biggest in Brazil, and is covered 92 percent by the Amazon rainforest, home to the world's richest biodiversity.

The region bakes in intense heat of about 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) at this time of year.

The level of the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon River, dropped 12 meters (39 feet) between July and October to a depth of almost 16 metersfeet), just shy of the level in 1963 during the region's worst drought in the past century.

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