In the impoverished district of Vila dos Milagres, a few blocks from his shack with a tin roof and pink walls oozing with humidity, the heavy rains of last weekend caused flows that swept away everything in their path, burying many dwellings.
On Wednesday afternoon, local authorities put the death toll at 120. That of homeless people rose to 7,312.
If the torrential rains resume, as the National Institute of Meteorology predicts for the next few hours, Claudia do Rosario thinks that her house could also end up in the mud.
The affected neighbors “called the Civil Defense people several times and no one came. It was only when there were deaths that they came. They are waiting for the same thing to happen here to come?”, launches this unemployed 43-year-old woman.
Same anxiety on the side of Maria Lucia da Silva. “Every time it rains the hill gives way a little… We are apprehensive here. We are calling the authorities but so far they haven’t given us any solution, they say the priority is is the part of the neighborhood that has been the most affected,” says the 37-year-old shopkeeper.
There, where the landslides occurred, firefighters, maintenance workers and other officials are active on Wednesday in search of missing people, as noted by an AFP videographer.
– Exposed areas –
The town hall of Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state, said it had opened phone and WhatsApp numbers for residents to report the incidents. According to her, more than 200 civil servants were in this district on Wednesday, working in “cleaning, social assistance, civil defense and health”.
A shelter has been set up in Vila dos Milagres to provide medical assistance, clothing and basic necessities to the victims.
Between Friday evening and Saturday morning, it rained the equivalent of 70% of what is normally expected for the whole of May in certain areas of the regional capital.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the flooded areas on Monday and the government released a credit of 1 billion reais (about 198 million euros) to help the victims.
The far-right head of state had been criticized for saying that this type of disaster is “things that happen”, after in particular a similar tragedy which claimed 233 in Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro (south -east), in February.
Other deadly floods took place at the end of last year in the state of Bahia (northeast), then in January in the southeast, in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.
Experts explain these episodes by a combination of heavy rains, exacerbated by climate change, and the establishment of entire neighborhoods made of precarious housing in steep areas at risk.
Brazil’s National Natural Disaster Monitoring and Warning Center (Cemaden) estimates that 9.5 million people in Brazil live in areas prone to landslides or floods, many of them in favelas – slums – without basic health facilities.