The devastating mudslides that killed at least 739 people in the Serrano Mountain region near Rio di Janeiro on January 12 are considered the deadliest natural catastrophe on record in Brazil. But our Observer says some good came out of the crisis in the spontaneous show of solidarity in the aftermath of the disaster.
Brazilian officials began moving thousands of people out of at-risk areas on Wednesday after forecasts for more rain. An estimated 14,000 people are being put up in shelters or staying with relatives. The worst-hit communities are Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis, three mountain towns north of Rio de Janeiro.
Newly elected President Dilma Roussef released $60 million [€44 million] of immediate aid and pledged $390 million [€289 million] more. However blocked roads hampered early rescue efforts, prompting citizens to try to reach cut-off areas by their own means.
“I followed a group of motorcyclists who went to help communities that aid trucks couldn’t reach”
Pedro Serra is a journalist and blogger in Rio de Janeiro. He sent us this video report he made while participating in rescue efforts in Teresopolis.
Teresopolis is a city in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro. I know it well, because I spent a lot of time in there as a child.
I would say that the level of destruction I saw there after the mudslides is comparable to the footage I saw of post-earthquake Haiti or the 2004 tsunami. I saw cars, and entire houses, completely destroyed by the force of the water. Huge boulders were displaced by the slide, crushing everything they encountered.
It’s really very sad to see all the broken families, the children left orphaned, parents who have lost their children. Even if you watch hours of reports on television, you can’t really grasp the extent of the suffering and destruction. You have to go there.
I witnessed a huge surge of solidarity after the destruction and wanted to focus on it in my report. Ordinary people were volunteering, donating, making huge efforts to go to places that rescue teams had not yet reached, to try to help. I saw rich people and poor people working together to gather donations. I followed a group of motorcyclists headed to places aid trucks couldn’t reach. The level of devastation we witnessed was breathtaking. In my video report. I wanted to show the good that can come out of a crisis.”
Rio citizen rents private helicopter to distribute aid
Rio-based photographer Oskar Sjostedt rented a helicopter to rescue two of his friends stranded in a country house between Nova Friburgo and Teresopolis. At the same time, he carried packages of clothes and food goods collected in his neighbourhood, and distributed them to communities which couldn’t be reached by land. He sent us the following photos.
Volunteers collect food, clothes and blankets Oskar Sjostedt's neighbourhood.
Sjostedt rented a helicopter to shuttle goods to affected areas.
Sjostedt's friends were stranded in a property surrounded by blocked or flooded land for over a week.
Post written with France 24 journalist Lorena Galliot.