Posts Tagged ‘Favela’

Rio de Janiero landslide rescuers offer little hope of survivors

April 8th, 2010

Photo: Vladimir Platonow, Agencia Brasil

Photo: Vladimir Platonow, Agencia Brasil

Rescue services say they have almost given up hope of finding any survivors following a landslide in Rio de Janeiro that buried an estimated 200 people on Wednesday night.

“We as firefighters always say that we work thinking that we are going to find people alive,” fire service spokesman Colonel José Paulo Miranda said.

“In this situation, in this type of incident, it’s very difficult. There is not the slightest chance that people get away quickly and there is the problem of being buried. We have very little hope, the difficulty is very great,” he added.

Around 50 makeshift homes are believed to have been washed down a hillside, previously housing a waste dump in the Niterói neighbourhood, which is more known for its affluence. TV pictures showed traumatised residents alongside rescue workers.

Shantytowns known as favelas that have increasingly sprouted on hillsides in Rio de Janeiro and other towns and cities across Brazil since the 1950’s are no stranger to this type of tragedy.

The mixture of heavy rains causing mudslides and flimsy accommodation thrown up without any attempt to sink foundations, in areas often flouting planning laws, has become a recipe for disaster.

“The area is a risk and never should have been inhabited,” said Rio de Janiero state Environment Secretary Marilene Ramos.

Rescuers who have been hauling out bodies have been battling precarious conditions as the ground threatens to give way with periods of sunshine of punctuated by bursts of heavy showers.

Record rainfall began lashing down on Monday causing landslides in the city and greater Rio de Janeiro causing chaos as makeshift housing slid down slopes, underground train stations were flooded and electricity supplies cut off.

More than three thousand people have been left homeless by flooding inside and outside the city, with the confirmed death toll so far reaching 175.

Brazil’s federal government on Thursday released R$200 million ($112 million) to help victims. Authorities in the city are asking for emergency payments of R$370 million ($207 million).

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Rio de Janeiro hotel landslide search continues

January 1st, 2010

Image reproduced from TV Globo

Image reproduced from TV Globo

Seventeen bodies have so far been pulled from rubble close to the site of an exclusive hillside hotel in Rio de Janeiro state, after heavy rains caused landslides, media reports say.

Twelve tourists are reportedly among the dead at the Ilha Grande island beach resort near Angra dos Reis.

Authorities say around forty guests were staying at the $275-a-night Sankay hotel-guest house at Praia do Bananal, though many of the deceased are believed to be local residents.

Around 100 fire-fighters, police and other rescue workers are said to be involved in frantic rescue efforts, though it’s not known how many people may be buried under debris.

At least 10 survivors were taken to hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and Sấo Paulo states on New Year’s day, while the death toll from landslides in the last three days in the Angra dos Reis region is put at as high as 46.

Landslides are an all-too-frequent occurence in Brazil, particularly in poorer areas, where shantytowns or slums are often built on slopes.

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Rise of militias boost security policy calls for Rio shantytowns

November 10th, 2009

Photo: Gang'Star, flickr

The growth of militias in Rio de Janiero’s shantytowns is cited as the most alarming aspect of a study into serious levels of violence released by Rio de Janeiro State University.

“The army, federal, state and city police must unite around a security policy capable of meeting this threat,” Alba Zaluar, a sociologist, who worked on the study in conjunction with the university’s applied statistics department said, according to government news agency Agencia Brasil.

By last year, militias had taken control of 400 slums of the 965 included in the study versus 108 four years ago, researchers found.

In some cases, where there is no official police presence, militias have succeeded in forcing out drug traffickers and criminal gangs, taking over areas previously under their control.

It has led to turf wars between criminal gangs, leading to fears the situation is spiralling out of control.

Militias have not only increasingly taken control of the supply of gas canisters used by slum dwellers to fuel ovens in places that are among the most unlikely to be attended by utility companies, but also the selling and letting of properties in such areas.

“It’s a big business that can bring in even more than drug trafficking,” Zaluar underlined.

Having in place so called ‘police peace keeping units’ (UPPs) are just as important as promoting a spirit of trust between the police and the local communities, which fear ‘the shoot first, ask questions later’ approach adopted in many previous operations, Zaluar said.

“The way police see slum dwellers and how they see the police has to change. There has to be a relationship built on trust,” he added.

The report comes on the day police mount a massive search operation for those linked to militias operating in the western Campo Grande part of the city.

Last month, two weeks after the city was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games, two Brazilian policemen were killed after their helicopter crashed, having been shot at in clashes between Rio de Janeiro police and drug gangs.

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The walls that divide Rio de Janeiro

April 11th, 2009

Moves underway to build walls around the slums of Rio de Janeiro has split opinion among citizens and also highlighted some interesting contrasts, according to a recent opinion poll.

The erection of 3-metre high walls at a cost of R$ 40 million ($18 million) has caused controversy, with 47% of people questioned by pollster Datafolha in favour of such moves and 44% against.

Photo: Walker Dawson, flickr

Photo: Walker Dawson, flickr

In a survey with a 4% margin for error, there appears little to choose between those on opposite sides of the debate.

The Rio de Janeiro state government says it has begun the action to protect remaining areas the city’s forest, although two- thirds of those asked believe won’t the objective won’t be achieved.

Rich-man, poor man?

For some it is seen as a cruel and crude sort of apartheid, separating wealthier from poorer areas, though interestingly 60% of those questioned say they don’t believe the walls will divide the haves from the have nots.

Among those whose monthly family income stretches to two minimum salaries R$930 ($415), 51% are in favour and as many as 39% are against the plan.

At the other end of the scale, 50% of those whose households bring in more than 10 minimum salaries of R$4650 ($2,077) disapprove of the walls against 45% who want them to become a permanent fixture.

Concrete barriers will surround 88,000 slum dwellers in 26,000 houses and shacks crammed into 1.7 square kilometres, if figures published at the turn of the Millennium are anything to go by.

Since then, of course things have not stood still.

Rocinha, which in 2000 was said to have 17,000 inhabitants, now reportedly has close to 26,000 people living there – a more than 50% increase.

Photo: dreamindly, flickr

Photo: dreamindly, flickr

From those who abhor the idea, the 14.6 kilometre long walls that will encircle thirteen favelas — twelve of them in the city’s South Zone, the other in the West Zone — have drawn comparisons with the Berlin Wall and the plight of the Palestinian people.

It has been suggested that the walls are being put up to hide the favelas.

The plans have won approval from 57% of people with a basic education, while 53% from a higher educational background are opposed.

It’s not the first time the idea has been put forward.

Though the plans were dropped following strong criticism five years ago, as part of efforts to protect the environment, while preventing drug traffickers and other alleged criminals fleeing from police raids walls it was announced that walls would be erected around four favelas.

Among those surveyed, 45% now think the walls would stop bandits escaping, while 51% believe they would fail to do so.

Negligent past

Until recent decades, favelas with their precarious living conditions, were seen as part of the solution not the problem by some who were happy to see them expand.

To unscrupulous politicians, slums were and still are viewed as somewhere to dump the poor, uneducated classes and as an easy place to pick up votes by promising, but never having to deliver desperately needed healthcare, sanitary and education facilities.

Keeping the slum-dwellers in poverty is also said to have allowed drug traffickers and other assorted criminal types to keep a stranglehold on their communities, as they carry out all manner of illegal activities.

Meantime, current affairs magazine Veja suggested that the time may have come for the city and state governments to now start applying proper building regulations to all of Rio’s thousand favelas, instead of just a comparative handful.

Indeed, the magazine cited state governor Sérgio Cabral as saying: “This is a wall of inclusion.”
Time will tell.

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