Mudslide wipes away a Rio slum, killing 200
Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro is reeling after a mudslide Wednesday swept over and destroyed a slum, killing as many as 200 people. The Morro Bumba community in the city of Niteroi (Rio's sister city) was wiped away in a flash, reports the AP: "Nothing was left behind but a massive crater of blackened, sodden earth and the remnants of flimsy brick shacks."
The official death toll was still at 169 since the start of unusually heavy rainfall in Rio de Janeiro state Monday. Not counting the still-unconfirmed deaths from the recent slide, the official toll had already surpassed the last major flooding and mudslides in Brazil in 2008. Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral called the Wednesday slide a catastrophe, with little chance of finding survivors.
The rescue efforts across Rio are moving slowly, as the soft hillsides where the city's favelas rise are still considered unstable, authorities said. From The Wall Street Journal:
"I don't know how to describe the noise," Valdenice de Moraes, who lives nearby, told the Globo TV network. "It was deafening and sounded like lots of wooden planks breaking at the same time."
How will this affect Rio as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016? At the blog Daily Rio Life, the author writes:
This situation puts a spotlight on Rio's everyday issues such as homelessness, unsafe building in the favelas (many of these homes are now lost due to mudslides), terrible living conditions in the favelas, litter (because it hampers drainage and thus contributes to more flooding), traffic woes and overall organization and readiness to deal with situations that arise.
Here's a slideshow of photos from the disaster at The Washington Post. Al Jazeera has a video report from the Rio favelas where residents and rescuers are digging through the mud. Brazil's O Globo news site has the latest updates, in Portuguese.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Relatives mourn deaths in the Morro Bumba slum near Rio. Credit: Associated Press