Brazilian Rains Move North While Rio Still Counts Its Dead

Bumba HillThe latest report from the Rio de Janeiro state Fire Department tells that, bodies are still being found in Niterói, the city across the Bay of Guanabara from Rio de Janeiro, after mudslides that began on Monday, April 5. Final total could be over 400 in the state.

In Niterói, at Morro do Bumba, bodies are still being dug up. Authorities say there could be another 150 people buried under the enormous mudslide that occurred on Wednesday, April 7. This was a community built on top of a landfill that gave way and sweep some 50 homes off the map as it descended down the hill (“morro”).

Across the bay, in Rio itself, at the Morro dos Prazeres (Hill of Pleasures), at least 15 people died under similar circumstances: a hillside absorbed all the rain it could and then gravity took over.

The mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, on his Twitter page, informed the world that inhabitants on part of the Morro do Urubu (Hill of the Vulture) in the northern region of the city, are already leaving that area.

Around 5,000 people live there in some 300 homes that have been condemned by the Civil Defense authorities and are being demolished. The area has been badly damaged by the rains. Paes reports that the families will receive 250 reais (US$ 142) per month to help them pay rent until they can establish another permanent residency.

A number of tourist attractions have been closed or open with limited access due to the rains – the Alto da Boa Vista, the Christ on Corcovado and Tijuca National Park, for example.

Back in Niterói, the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, visited the Morro do Céu (Hill of Heaven) and stated that at least 200 families there (the area is near Morro do Bumba) will be removed with funding from the state and federal governments.

Meanwhile, outside the metropolitan areas there remain problems with highways closed due to mudslides as well. The BR-493, an important connection between Rio and the rest of the state – the regions of the mountains and lakes (Região Serrana e Região dos Lagos) was closed for three days last week. Last weekend it was opened for trucks and buses, but passenger cars weren’t allowed till the end of the week.

During the night of Wednesday, April 7, 2010, the life of 18-year-old Eberton Bitile was dramatically changed forever. The shack built on a hillside where he and his extended family lived, a total of thirteen people, was in danger of collapsing and sliding down the hill during heavy rains. So everybody went to another shack that seemed to offer more protection.

The second shack belonged to Evandro da Silva Barci, who was a kind of good Samaritan of the Morro do Bambu, in Niterói. Evandro, seeing the danger in the higher part of the ghetto gave refuge to no less than six different families that night (he went out in the rain and told others they should leave their own shacks and go to his for safety). His home was better built than the others and seemed to be in a safer place. It wasn’t.

The whole hillside gave way. Everything was swept away, including Evandro’s home, and buried in tons of mud and rubble since this ghetto was also built on top of a landfill. 

Eberton was visiting his girlfriend in another neighborhood and was the only survivor.  “Now I don’t have a home or relatives. I guess I am going to live with my girlfriend,” was all the dazed young man could say.

Sergipe: 500 Homeless

Cold fronts in Brazil come up from Argentina and move Northeast. That is, they tend to move along the coast. The frontal system that did so much harm in Rio de Janeiro has now moved up to the northeastern state of Sergipe where the rains have damaged over 700 homes leaving around 500 people without shelter.

ABr

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