Thursday, April 8

Rio in chaos from record rains; mudslides bury scores of people alive, death toll rising, many still missing.

UPDATE April 9, 11:25 AM EDT

My post today is titled Brazil's 'Katrina' - corruption, government mismanagement might have played role in high death toll from mudslides in Rio and Niteroi slums
Of the 147 people confirmed dead from Rio's heaviest rains on record, at least 18 died in the shantytown of Pleasure Hill. The sun is out now in Rio, but more rain is expected this weekend.....

Rio de Janeiro and environs have never seen rain like this before. The rain fell in torrents without interruption from Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning, setting off huge mudslides that covered shanty towns built into steep hillsides and bringing life to a virtual standstill in the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, "the second largest city of Brazil and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, 6th largest in the Americas and the main tourist destination in the Southern Hemisphere," according to Wikipedia.

Just the city proper has 6,093,000 residents, making it the world's 31st most populous city; if you added the population for Rio's metro area (14,387,000), it would qualify as one of the world's megacities (population 10 million plus)

The Associated Press reported two hours ago (about 12:30 AM EDT) that 145 are confirmed dead (Updated toll at 3:00 AM is 147 dead):
[...] Trees and power lines were knocked down, enormous craters were seen in the streets, wastewater flowed down to the city's white sand beaches and it was nearly impossible to get anywhere in the city of 6 million people.

In [neighboring] Rochina, officials said 16 inches (41 centimeters) of rain had fallen so far this month — three times the amount normally expected for all of April. Similar figures were seen across Rio's metropolitan area.

The Rio state Civil Defense department said at least 11,000 people were forced from their homes by punishing rain that filled streets with raging torrents and ground Brazil's second-biggest city to a halt the previous day.[...]
And in this city that crushes the very poor up against the very rich, gangs took advantage of the chaos, robbing motorists stranded in their cars. As to where the slum residents will go now that the mudslides have turned the hillsides into death traps, the AP report continues:
Late Wednesday, an official with the state's Civil Defense department said a huge mudslide smashed into a slum in Rio's neighboring city of Niteroi, burying up to 40 homes. It was not immediately clear how many people were missing, but it was likely to be in the dozens.

Because of the continuing rains, steep hillsides and loose earth, officials said there had been few successful rescues. One man, Carlos Eduardo Silva dos Santos, 24, was pulled alive from under a concrete wall in western Rio. Firefighters said they had no count on how many people had been rescued.

The death toll could easily rise. An official with Rio's fire department said at least 60 people were missing Wednesday afternoon — before the latest mudslide in Niteroi. [...]

Nearly all the deaths occurred in landslides that engulfed the slums, yet another reminder that life in one of the world's most famous playgrounds is much different for the poor than it is for the rich.

Residents of the slums often endure dangers such as the frequent shootouts between police and heavily armed drug gangs, and when heavy rain falls on slopes crowded with poorly built shacks, nature itself can deal out death.

Almeira and other slum residents say they have nowhere else to go if they want jobs in Rio's richer areas.

"The government wants to forcefully remove the residents living in danger, and that is understandable," said Leandro Ribeiro, another slum resident. "But where are we supposed to go? Some people have been living here for 30 years. This is their home."

Mayor Eduardo Paes said he was taking a tougher stand on forced relocations. He announced that 1,500 families were going to be removed from their homes on Pleasure Hill and in Rochina, one of Latin America's largest slums.

"I don't want to spend next summer sleepless, worrying if the rains are going to kill somebody," he told reporters, without saying when the relocations would occur.[...]

1 comment:

L. Riofrio said...

Great sympathy to friends in Rio! I was there in August for the International Astronomical Union. It is a wonderful city.