Picking up the pieces in Rio
A new decade has begun but the start will be memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Brazil suffers the devastating blows of the worst natural disaster in its history.
Brazilians were always proud and happy to sing the lyrics of one of Jorge Ben Jor’s most famous songs, ‘País Tropical’, that says “I live in a tropical country, blessed by God and beautiful by nature”. In other words, a country that doesn’t suffer with earthquakes, twisters or volcanoes and with some of the most amazing natural landscapes in the world.
However, since Tuesday 11th January, when one of the worst storms that the state of Rio de Janeiro had ever seen hit the Serrana Region, the country fears the very “strength of nature” that destroyed several cities, leaving in its wake almost 700 deaths (and counting) and 20 thousand people homeless. The worst natural disaster ever seen in Brazil.
Heavy rain in Nova Friburgo, Teresópolis, Petropólis, São José do Vale do Rio Preto and Sumidouro, mountainous areas just outside Rio de Janeiro city, provoked merciless floods and landslides. Rivers overflowed and the high pressure of the water with mud washed away everything in its path. There are still about 200 people missing and some areas it’s impossible for the rescue crews to reach, despite all the efforts from the government, who have sent the Fire Brigade, Civil Defense and even the Army to help in the search for survivors.
Schools, indoor pitches and any structures that remained standing are being used as a shelter for the families that lost everything and donations are coming from all over the country (and world) to help re-establish some sort of order amongst the chaos.
Journalist and volunteer, Ana Carolina Rodrigues, who with friends is organising trucks from Rio to the Serrana Region with clothes, bed linen, food and water, was happy to see that people are being very generous. “It was incredible the amount of people that came to help. Lots of them brought cars to assist us distributing the goods according to the needs of each area”.
Despite being optimistic about all the help the volunteers have received, Ana Carolina describes what she saw as a scene from a post-apocalyptic film. “There weren’t many people on the streets, but the ones we saw were just walking around, lost, begging for water, milk and food. When we arrived at one of the shelters, we started to hear the stories: a woman who lost 5 brothers, an old mentally disabled man that lost his entire family. There is a lot of suffering here”.
Doctors, Psychologists, Veterinarians, students and everyone who can spare their time are volunteering to go to the affected areas to help, but there are many other ways to contribute, please check below for ways to donate.
By Zaira Brilhante
The easiest way to make a donation from the UK is via the ABC Trust or Banco do Brasil, whilst if in Brazil there is the SOS Teresópolis Donation website.
ABC Trust’s Virgin Fundraising page
Brasil Flood Relief account by Banco do Brasil
Details of the account to which donations can be sent are as follows:-
Donations may also be made in cash between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday at the branch offices:
Teresópolis City – “SOS Teresópolis Donation”
Vale do Rio Doce Campaign to help Serrana Region