This 56-year-old housewife was able to evacuate in time to avoid being submerged by a mudslide, but her neighbors were not so lucky: 11 people from the same family died and a 12th was carried disappeared.
“I’m very sad, it’s like it’s my family. I’ve lived here for 40 years, most of them I’ve seen them grow up,” she says.
“The 11 bodies that were found will be buried this afternoon, but they are still looking for my friend’s niece. She was 32, the age of my daughter,” continues this black woman who wears sunglasses for hide her tears.
“I can’t say anything more, otherwise I’m going to cry again,” she says, between two sobs.
In Jardim Monteverde, a poor neighborhood on the hillside on the border of Recife, capital of Pernambuco, and the municipality of Jaboatao dos Guararapes, dozens of firefighters continued Monday to search for the twenty people who disappeared in the pouring rain.
At the top of the hill, some houses are still standing, but a few meters away you can see a sheer chasm, almost vertical, where a thick layer of mud has devastated everything in its path.
Below, a pile of debris, pieces of bricks, clothing, toys and other personal objects of the victims of the landslide.
– “Like a tsunami” –
Mario Guadalupe, a 60-year-old retiree, narrowly escaped disaster.
The mudslide “almost took away my house. I saw everything and I know all those who died”, assures this half-caste with thick glasses and a graying mustache.
“First I saw a piece of earth fall, and right after that it was like a tsunami. The mud devastated everything.”
His modest home, miraculously preserved, is now used as a storage place for food distributed to the victims.
“You can’t say it was an announced tragedy. I’ve lived here for 40 years and we’ve never seen such a thing,” he said.
“It is surely a phenomenon linked to global warming, because we had never seen so much rain in such a short time”, he continues, fearing that other similar tragedies will happen again: “It helps us to ‘warning for the coming (austral) winter’.
Meteorologists attribute the torrential rains that fell on Pernambuco to a phenomenon called “eastern waves”, usual at this time of year, with heavy clouds moving from the African continent to the Brazilian coastal region.
In a few hours, in the night from Friday to Saturday, it fell 70% of the total volume of precipitation expected for the whole month of May.
Even if no one expected such a tragedy, some residents turned against the authorities.
“Many people here have lost everything. Not only their homes, but their lives! We need medicine, food,” says Jailson Gomes de Souza, a 34-year-old builder in a yellow raincoat.
“Jardim Monteverde is calling for help! You shouldn’t come here just to campaign before the elections,” he warns.