World Bulletin / News Desk
A cow's skull lies baking in the sun and nearby another dead cow rots, symbols of the desolation gripping northeastern Brazil during its worst drought in a century.
Farmer Kerginaldo Pereira, 30, walks through the dust and cactuses in dismay. There are in all about 30 skeletons of cattle, donkeys and other farm animals in a sort of open-air cemetery set aside in his settlement of Nova Canaa, in Ceara state, to avoid spread of disease.
"Most are animals that died of thirst or hunger. Sadly, that's the reality. So many animals have died in these five years of drought," Pereira told AFP.
The semiarid northeast of Brazil, known as the Sertao, is used to rain shortages but no one can remember a drought like this. There has been almost no rain since 2012 and the leafless, desiccated landscape has the appearance of having been in a vast fire.
Experts say that a cocktail of factors has produced the disaster: a strong El Nino in the Pacific, heating of the north Atlantic and climate change that has seen temperatures in Ceara rise by 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in 50 years.
Pereira said he had to sell his other three cows and 10 sheep, fetching poor prices because they were "skeletal."
Like others in Nova Canaa, home to 70 families near the town of Quixeramobim, he could no longer afford to feed the animals as well his two small daughters.
Water on wheels
Everyday activities, even washing clothes or drinking, have become a luxury in the Sertao, which extends across eight states. The region has 25 million inhabitants and of them three million have insufficient water, according to state government figures -- a ratio that shoots up for those living in the countryside.
Rural communities depend on government water trucks, which fill cisterns. Even so there is only enough for about 20 liters (5.3 gallons) a day per person, far off the World Health Organization's recommended 50 to 100 liters a day, for drinking, cooking and sanitation.
To boost this supply, villages get together to pay for hard-to-afford private deliveries, or they go with donkeys to public wells where they stand in line for hours. Some dig their own wells but the water is so salty that even animals refuse to drink.
Most families get little more than about $130 a month in social security and emergency drought aide -- barely enough, especially when extra deliveries by truck cost about $50.
"We were able to get through one year of drought easily, because the reservoirs still had plenty of water saved, but now we are having to conserve more every day," said Clara Carneiro, a 67-year-old farmer. She saves shower water and reuses washing-up water to give to her dozen cows, which each need 100 liters a day.
Tourism has also dried up, literally.
The Paradise Bar, with views of the Cedro Reservoir in Quixada, is still open but there are few customers now that the lake, which has a capacity of more than the equivalent of 50,000 Olympic swimming pools, is completely dry.
Hundreds of carcasses of turtles and the bones of fish litter the bed of the reservoir.
"There was very extensive biodiversity, with a lot of fish, amphibians, mollusks and many birds who fed on the fish," said Wagnar Docarm, taking part in a Quixada State University study on the dead animals. "Now it's all gone."
Hugo Fernandes, a zoologist leading the study, said the turtles would usually be migrating "but they couldn't find a way to get across the reservoir."
Local people who depended on fishing in the reservoir say the drought has devastated them.
"Everybody here lived by fishing. There were a lot of fish, shrimps," said Francisco Elso Pinheiro, 75. He said that by selling fish he had been able to double his approximately $300 a month pension.
His boat now? It's anchored in the middle of dry land.
Recession and corruption
In the worst recession for a century, the government often delays aid payments, while a much-awaited but controversial project to divert the major San Francisco River was held up after the main contractor was caught up in a nationwide corruption scandal.
"There's no doubt that the political crisis, together with the economic crisis, have made the water situation worse," said Ceara state's top water official, Francisco Teixeira.
Weather forecasts for 2017 give little hope of the Sertao getting a break, let alone refilling the reservoirs. The small communities around Quixeramobim say only God can help them.
"We have to pray because the only one who can help is above. The politicians forget about us once elections are over," said farmer Sebastiao Batista, 66, looking upward.
"For me, the future of the (remaining) 27 member states comes before the exit negotiations with Great Britain" said Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, as she arrived for the two-day meeting.
Turkey seeks to ‘tighten Muslim grip on Temple Mount’, prominent Israeli daily asserts
"A number of these tests have come back as combustible," May said in a statement to parliament after ordering checks on all similar blocks.
Kiev, Europe closer than even before says Ukrainian president
Otto Warmbier, 22, suffered severe brain damage in North Korea and died on Monday following 18 months of captivity in North Korea after he was sentenced to hard labor for stealing a political poster from a hotel.
The giant blaze broke out initially at Pedrogao Grande and spread to adjacent areas including Gois, Pampilhosa da Serra and Arganil.
"Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor," said the French president, who took office last month.
The magazine said it had seen documents showing that the intelligence service, the BND, had a list of some 4,000 so-called selector keywords for surveillance between 1998 and 2006.
Although no date has been set for such a vote, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said the National Assembly speaker had the authority to order a secret ballot in a case brought by the country's opposition parties.
Barely three months ago, Schulz, the new head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), seemed to be the man most likely to topple Merkel, who is running for a fourth term.
Speaking ahead of an EU summit in Brussels where Prime Minister Theresa May was due to brief leaders on her Brexit plans, Tusk suggested the process could still be reversed.
Exchanges of fire could be heard in the eastern part of the city, with an army spokesman confirming a gun battle had broken out between troops and a new rebel group.
'You represent the spirit of Nabra,' Imam tells multiethnic, multireligious gathering
More than 5M children in need of urgent humanitarian aid, UN warns
Mike Pence hopes both sides ‘will reach deal to ‘reunify’ Cypress