Wednesday, January 19, 2011

“Brazil’s Rainfall/Flooding Disaster”

“Brazil’s Rainfall/Flooding Disaster”
The Daily Mail

“After the deluge of photographs showing devastated landscapes, this scene is one which perhaps sums up the loss floods have brought to Brazil. As the mudslides death toll hits 630, a loyal dog refuses to leave the muddy graveside of its owner.
Leao cuts a pitiful figure beside the grave of Cristina Maria Cesario Santana, who died in Teresópolis, one of the areas hardest hit by last week's natural disaster.

Renewed rainfall was slowing rescue helicopters today in south-east Brazil as officials focused their attention on the survivors they could reach more immediately, mapping out a plan to get people living in tents in the short term.  The mayor of Teresópolis, Jorge Mario Sedlacek, said that more than 2,000 tents were being brought in, each capable of sheltering up to 10 people.  'They will give families shelter for up to six months while more permanent solutions can be developed,' Mr Sedlacek said.  'These tents will at least re-establish the family units, which will bring some comfort to people living in communal shelters.'

That could come as good news to people like Magda Brito Silveira, who said she was near her breaking point trying to run her family of six children after five chaotic days in a crowded gymnasium-turned-shelter. 'We have nowhere else to go, no resources,' she said. 'I am trying to keep the children clean, to feed them, to make sure we're all together. But I can't hold on like this much longer.'  A local business has offered land on which to set up the tents, and crews began working to level the ground, Mr Sedlacek said.  The city is also studying the option of erecting modular homes, which can be set up within a few days.
Even before the disaster struck, the city had requested government funds to build affordable, safe housing, in a region notably lacking in both.  More than $72million (£45million) has since been approved for Teresópolis and will be used to build homes and shore up areas at risk for more slides, the mayor said.  Two other towns hit by the disaster also won federal funding: $13million (£8million) for Petropolis, and $5million (£3.15million) for Nova Friburgo.

The government also offered to pay the rent of 2,500 families for an indeterminate period. Sign-ups for the program started yesterday, said General Jose Elito, minister for national security. 'We are removing bureaucratic bottlenecks and registering people to help them with long-term housing needs,' he said.  Authorities also will map out and evacuate high-risk areas where residents are holding on to their homes, said Mr Sedlacek.  He said: 'We know there are communities that are at immediate risk. The government is planning to remove those residents and place them in shelters or tents.'

Days after mudslides wiped out whole neighborhoods early on Wednesday, many residents continued to live in homes in threatened areas, unwilling to join the thousands crowded into shelters despite the ever-present danger to their lives. Rali Oliveira da Silva, 35, spent several years building a home for his family in Cascata do Imbui, saving little by little for the cement, the bricks, the paint.  The house was still standing on Sunday, but its cement patio now hung precariously over a yawning precipice, the empty space left by a slide that killed most of his downhill neighbours. Mr Oliveira da Silva's home could be next. But he said he has no money to rent another place, much less to buy land elsewhere and start over, so he's staying put for now. 'There is no financing for someone like me, and I can't afford to buy a home in town,' he said. 'What am I supposed to do? Move my family to a shelter? And then what?'

The government yesterday set up a centre to register missing persons, workers began distributing 35,000 free mobile phones donated by a telecommunications company, and announced immediate plans to relocate some 2,500 people housed at the Teresópolis gym to 18 smaller, better organised shelters at churches, warehouses and other spaces.

A brief morning lull in the downpours allowed rescue helicopters to buzz around the emerald-green peaks in this area about 40 miles (65 kilometres) north of Rio de Janeiro, delivering desperately needed food and water to some of the most remote neighbourhoods. 'The priority is the rescue of people who are still isolated,' said Alexandre Aragon, head of the Brazilian National Security Force, which is aiding in the recovery.  'We have to take advantage of this break in the weather to help people in these remote, collapsed areas.'

Rio state's Civil Defence department said on its website late Sunday that the death toll reached 633 between the cities of Teresópolis, Nova Friburgo, Petropolis and Sumidouro. The death toll has risen daily as more bodies are pulled from the mud. "

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