Brazilian Red Cross responds to worst floods in 40 years

Published: 9 April 2010 0:00 CET

The torrential rains hitting Rio de Janeiro over the past days have killed more than 153 people. In addition at least 135 injured were injured, 15,000 people had to leave their homes and more than 3,000 people are now homeless in the metropolitan area and various satellite-cities.

Aid teams keep working around the clock after mudslides buried several homes, most of them in the hilly slum areas close to Rio. Forecasters expect the heavy rains to continue, while some 13,000 houses are still at risk. Niteroi, separated from Río de Janeiro by the Guanabara Bay, is one of the hardest hit communities.

According to regional authorities this is the worst flooding in Rio in 40 years. A state of emergency and three days of mourning have been declared, urging residents of the at risk zones to abandon their homes, while schools and universities will remain closed to reduce traffic and avoid obstructing rescue operations. The weather forecasts predict more rain to fall.

Death toll is expected to rise

Brazilian Red Cross volunteers and search and rescue teams have been working since the beginning of the emergency, always in close coordination with the government authorities.

According to Fernando Costa, National Chief of Disasters of the Brazilian Red Cross, the death toll caused by the heavy rains in Río de Janeiro keeps growing. “In the houses buried by mudslides in the municipality of Niteroi alone, an estimated number of 200 people died.” Costa also confirms, that survivors who have lost their homes are already being given a place to stay in temporary shelters.

Food, water, clothes and shelter

The Red Cross in Brazil is distributing food, safe water and clothes to the affected people. A community centre was opened by the Red Cross branch of Rio de Janeiro and volunteers are receiving donations such as food, water, blankets and mattresses.

20,000 Swiss francs (18,659 US dollars or 13,961 euro) have been allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to perform initial damage and needs assessments and to support the Brazilian Red Cross's disaster response operation.