By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Heavy flooding and mudslides caused by heavy tropical rains that have swept across the State of Rio de Janeiro over two weeks ago, have left at least 810 people dead so far, while another 469 have been reported missing. Aid efforts from both the public and private sector are being mobilized as the extent of the destruction is still being uncovered.
The mountainous region of the state, known as Região Serrana, located about a 100km northeast of the city of Rio de Janeiro, has been suffering from widespread devastation. This has also been raising fears of a possible outbreak of infectious diseases due to unhygienic living conditions of tens of thousands of survivors who are left homeless.
Three cases of leptospirosis, a deadly disease spread through water or mud contaminated by rat urine, have been confirmed in the region so far. Experts agree that this number could have been much higher but the geographical features of the Região Serrana allowed floodwater to roll down the hills, significantly curbing the incidence of infection.
The emergency reconstruction efforts are set to begin in the cities that are destroyed by the worst weather-related tragedy in the country’s history, namely Nova Friburgo, Teresópolis, Petrópolis, Sumidouro, São José do Vale do Rio Preto, and Bom Jardim.
Nova Friburgo, the city affected the worst by the disaster, losing about 400 of its residents, will be giving priority to the reconstruction of schools, some of which have been demolished, and the others serving as temporary shelters for the survivors who have lost their homes.
Over one hundred bridges destroyed in the region will also be reconstructed starting this weekend, as the municipal governments have announced that emergency reconstruction was set to be concluded within the next 180 days.
In order to help the victims of the tragedy, many residents of the state have been mobilized, contributing through donations of food, clothing, money, and blood. The foreign community in Rio has been very active as well in the collection of donations, and this weekend a benefit concert is being organized in order to raise funds and help ease the suffering in the region.
The benefit concert will be held on Saturday, January 29th, starting at 7PM in the Jubilee Hall (Rua Real Grandeza, 99) in Botafogo, and is a joint effort of The American Society of Rio (AmSoc Rio), the British and Commonwealth Society (BCS), and Christ Church Rio de Janeiro.
Renowned musicians, including Scott Feiner, who most recently won accolades for his performance at Rio de Janeiro Jazz Festival, will play at the event, which will also feature personal accounts of the community members living in the hardest hit areas, as well as a looping slide-show with photos showing the devastation in the region.
Admission to the concert is R$50 (regular), and R$25 for students and seniors, and all proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross. These, however, are the minimum prices set, and everyone is encouraged to donate as generously as possible to aid the victims and help the recovery efforts.
The schedule for the event is as follows:
7PM onwards – Looping slide-show, periodic announcements by Emcee
7:15PM – David Chew Duo (Cellist and classical guitarist Nicolas Souza Barros)
7:40PM – Scott Feiner & Pandeiro Jazz
8:05PM – Talk by community members from Teresópolis
8:25PM – BeeLiv (Al Pratt and his daughters)
8:50PM – Arizona
9:15PM – Talk by community members from Nova Friburgo
9:35PM – River Country Trio (featuring Steve Yolen, Peter Warner, and Tony Lupidi)
10:00PM – Grand Finale (candlelight “Amazing Grace”, led by Nova Friburgo resident Steve Yolen)