by Peter Stanford LOCAL churchmen in the flood stricken poor suburbs around the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro are concerned that vital aid is not getting through to these outlying areas.
Clare Dixon, Latin America Projects' Officer with CAFOD, was in Rio last week when heavy rainfall swept away thousands of homes, killing at least 250 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless in the Baixada Fulminense, "a vast sprawling industrial area to the north of Rio". While the "dramatic" landslides in Rio itself and the mountain resort of Petropolis have received much media attention, Ms Dixon is afraid that the low lying Baixada and the devastation and homelessness caused there by weeks of torrential rain was going unnoticed.
This is not a shanty town, but a very poor working class area with no real services", she said. Open sewers running alongside the houses had burst leaving the streets churned up with sewage". The roads, mainly just dust tracks, had turned into mud slides, impassible to vehicles. Ms Dixon had been stranded in a car caught in the sea of mud as the rains washed away the road it was travelling along.
CAFOD have this week sent an initial grant of US $10,000 to provide emergency help to the homeless whose flimsy houses have been destroyed by the tide of water. The money will be used for food, mattresses and medicines for those who have taken refuge in the Baixada's more solid buildings — churches and schools.
Clare Dixon reported that other areas of Brazil had come to the assistance of the stricken peoples of the Baixada. During her stay she visited Sao Paolo where the archdiocese gave every penny of its Sunday collections to flood relief. "It was very moving to be in a shanty town hut, hardly able to hear the Mass because of the rain beating on the corrugated iron roof, with the people with nothing to give digging deep into their pockets to help others less fortunate", she said.