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Brazil community mourns dead after landslides

#Brazil #community #mourns #dead #landslides

Watching an emergency crew recover his parents’ bodies from the landslide-obliterated spot in southeastern Brazil where their house used to be, Marcio managed to get just a few words out before breaking down in sobs.

“They were always together. And that’s how they found them,” he said, as workers dug through the mud, tree trunks and rocks that buried the home where his parents, Neuzinha and Mauro, had resided for 30 years.

The couple lived in the hillside community of Vila Sahy, the neighborhood hit hardest by torrential rains last weekend that triggered violent floods and landslides in the picturesque coastal town of Sao Sebastiao and the surrounding area.

At least 48 people were killed in the storm, according to officials. Thirty-eight more are still missing and feared dead.

Vila Sahy, a poor neighborhood of about 3,000 people, was partly wiped out by the landslides.

Teams of emergency workers, soldiers, police and volunteers have been digging through the muck and wreckage to look for the missing, using bulldozers, chainsaws, shovels and even radiofrequency detectors to pick up cell phone signals.

– Hope fading –

Near each mountain of rubble, family and friends waited, hoping for a miracle — like that of a baby found alive beneath the wreckage of two houses that were washed down the hillside.

Taiara Lopes, a 26-year-old domestic worker, considered her escape a “miracle,” too, after the crush of mud buried her up to her shoulders in her kitchen.

“I managed to grab hold of a tree trunk. I was going under, but my husband managed to pull me out, and we climbed up onto the roof,” she told AFP, showing her badly bruised legs.

But hope for more miraculous survival stories is fading.

– ‘More and more bodies’ –

Elenilson Batista Gomes, 47, had barely slept since arriving Sunday to look for his son Caio and daughter-in-law Michelle, who married four months ago.

“I’m not leaving until I find them. I’m going to give my son and his wife a decent burial,” he said.

Sniffer dogs were looking for bodies atop a bare spot where residents said about 10 houses used to stand.

They found a man’s body against a wall, and two others beneath an uprooted tree.

Natalia Cerqueira said she was starting to feel “useless” after three days helping with the search.

“We keep digging through the mud, but there’s always more. We find bodies, and then there are still more,” said the 25-year-old school cafeteria cook.

Maria Vidal, 50, considered herself among the lucky ones.

The torrent passed in front of her house, but spared her and her four-year-old grandson.

Still, she feels haunted, she said.

“Images of dead children keep running through my mind,” she said, adjusting her curly hair to hide her tears from her grandson, who was playing nearby with a Superman toy, making it fly through the air.

Lucas da Rocha, whose home was also spared, said he had suffered an even bigger loss: his friends.

“I’m just waiting for the roads to be cleared so I can go live with family. There could be another landslide anytime,” said the 31-year-old father of two.

Then storm clouds moved in again, forcing emergency crews to suspend the search temporarily.

“No one can live with fear like this,” said Da Rocha.

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#Brazil #community #mourns #dead #landslides

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