Mudslides in Brazil or the
Predictability of Tragedy
It’s happening again. Almost every year, incontinent summer rains flood and cause tragic mudslides in and around Rio de Janeiro. Accordingly, headlines could be merely copied over and republished, with changes just in the number of victims and their names.
That’s because, as local and federal governments get elected, fulfill their terms in office, and leave, little is ever accomplished to prevent this sad cycle of despair and grief happening all over again in Brazil. As usual, the epicenter of this still unfolding tragedy is Petrópolis.
Despite the use of terms such as ‘unusual heavy rains,’ and ‘unexpected mudslides,’ the script is all too familiar. Rains come and the mountainous region around Brazil’s ‘marvelous city’ start to turn into a deadly, several feet-deep wave of mud and detritus, rushing down and burying everything on its path.
So far, the death toll (335, so far) hasn’t been as severe as it was in 2011, and we do hope it keeps that way. Still we thought it’d be appropriate to republish an exclusive and dramatic eyewitness report on the floods that affected the same area two years ago. As we said, there’s very little difference between then and now.
You may gather your own conclusions, of course, but since it’s still happening as we speak, we’ll abstain from making judgements or calling for accountability for now. At least until the weather gives a break to those poor Brazilians, and everyone is safe. Then, we most definitely should. In the meantime, here’s the story.
Left With Only Despair & the
Clothes They Were Wearing
Over 500 people got killed in the past few days, as intense rains caused floods and mudslides in five towns around Rio de Janeiro. The death toll is expected to rise as more rain is forecast and an unknown number of victims remains buried under land and debris from collapsed buildings. Here’s a report from a resident of Nova Friburgo, one of the most affected cities.
Things here are really horrible. The rain inundated my mom’s house, she lost almost everything, many barriers broke down, there are many deaths, relatives of Fabio (my husband) lost everything and were left only with the clothes they’re wearing.
We had to leave home because things were getting pretty bad, without running water, power and risking getting sick, for the mud was already at the fourth step leading to my apartment. But thank god, we’re fine now.
We went back today. We now have power but there’s still no water and worse, we can’t find bottled water in the city. There are still a lot of people buried all over.
Here in downtown, two or three buildings have collapsed, we still don’t know how many died in them. There’s a street that was completely taken by the mud, all houses, and some say that there may be 100 people dead in there. The back street behind dad’s house simply disappeared, and he had to abandon his apartment building; it’s condemned.
A LOT OF PEOPLE DIED and their bodies haven’t been rescued from the debris yet. The current estimate of 500 dead only in Nova Friburgo is not precise, unfortunately.
60 children died in a vacation camp.
Of the three city hospitals, the flood already destroyed two. I think the Army is putting together two field hospitals somewhere around there.
Fábio, Lili, her husband Augusto and I are volunteering to rescue buried victims still alive, because the Fire Department and the Police can’t handle it.
If you guys can, please ask for help from people you know, the city really needs it. You’ll need to find some collection station for donations to the victims and send here whatever you can.
We can’t get news from friends and relatives, phones are not working and the streets are blocked. It’s just impossible to walk around to get any information.
The Internet is now on but who knows until when, since the forecast is for more rain.
But thank god, all is well with us.
There’s panic in the city. An hour ago, I heard some screaming. From the window, I saw a lot of people running, trying to break out of the buses they were in, while the police was telling them to run and abandon their buildings.
There was a rumor that a big dam had been ruptured, which would flood everything all over again. But thank god, it was false alarm. There’s chaos, no one knows what to do. I want to leave the city because there’s no supplies left to buy or drinking water.
They just confirmed the vacation camp tragedy: 60 children dead.
The number of diseased only in Friburgo is estimated at 500, with projections of reaching 2,000.
Casualties of the 2011 floods in Rio’s metro area reached over 900 people dead, plus thousands left injured and homeless.
Thanks to Jorge Carlos Keller
(*) Originally published in Jan. 14, 2011.