We all thought that this year’s rainy season, with the risk of flooding and landslides, had well and truly passed by the start of April. However, on Good Friday, the 6th, we had unusually heavy rainfall here in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, especially in the cities of Nova Friburgo and Teresópolis. In Friburgo we had some surface flooding, but fortunately no serious landslides, however Teresópolis was badly hit with both flooding downtown and landslides in some of the hillside communities.
The suburbs of Perpétuo and Rosário, where we had trained Civil Defence volunteers as CERT teams merely one month before, were especially affected, and the teams performed wonderful, conduction evacuation, first aid and search rescue, and undoubtedly saving many lives. They also activated the emergency alert sirens, opened the emergency shelters, and then ran a longer-term shelter in the CIEP school in Rosário for the next twelve days.
Felipe Lisboa, our CERT team leader, and myself responded to Teresópolis on Saturday the 7th, initially to give support to the CERT teams and to help during an expected further heavy rainfall on the Saturday night. We also took some of our equipment, including two-way radios and emergency lighting and generator.
Fortunately, the heavy rains didn’t fall, and we were able to return to Friburgo on the Sunday afternoon. I, however, returned again to Teresópolis on the Tuesday, where I remained helping the teams administer the shelter until the following Tuesday.
Although there were five deaths in Teresópolis as result of this unexpected rainfall, no fatalities occurred in the suburb of Rosário, despite the fact that some three hundred houses have been declared as unusable by the authorities. Without a doubt, the actions of these volunteers were fundamental in both the initial response to the disaster when, due to heavy flooding downtown, professional first responders were unable to access the community for several hours, and also in the ongoing operation of the shelter, especially during the chaotic initial days after the disaster.
Here are some photos from my time in Teresópolis.