By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The interior, mountainous region of Rio state (Região Serrana) is still suffering from the chaos following the worst natural disaster in Brazilian history. The death toll has reached 860, while hundreds remain missing after the torrential rains and the ensuing mudslides devastated the area on January 12th.
Emergency construction has started, with the priority on rebuilding schools, hospitals, roads and bridges in an effort to restore the daily life in the region. About 30,000 people have been dislocated, as over 11,000 residents of the city of Teresópolis have lost their homes, followed by 6,000 in Petrópolis, and over 5,000 in Nova Friburgo.
BNDES (Brazil’s Economic and Social Development Bank) has initiated the Emergency Reconstruction Program, under which R$400 million has been earmarked for the reconstruction of buildings and equipment purchase. Resources will be available to all businesses located in the municipalities that have declared a state of emergency due to the disaster, with the aim of restoring economic activity in the troubled region.
BNDES is also expected to approve R$600 million for the funding of new civil defense projects for the entire country, with an objective of preventing similar tragedies in the future. Fernando Bezerra Coelho, the Minister of National Integration, who has announced the plans for further investments in education, health, and safety, emphasized the necessity of creating a culture of disaster prevention.
“We are not prepared; we do not have a civil defense culture,” he said, adding: “Having equipment and a good alert system is not enough. We need to empower the civil defense personnel for them to establish a dialog with the people.”
President Dilma Rousseff has announced the construction of more than 6,000 homes to be built under the PAC 2 Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life) program, funded by the federal government with state subsidies, which will be delivered to the disaster victims at no cost.
“We intend to lessen the pain of the families who have lost their homes by providing them a new place, be it in the form of houses or apartments, as soon as possible,” said the president.
The humanitarian organizations are set to begin the second phase of helping the disaster victims, through the efficient use and channeling of donations and efforts. As the tragedy-struck region no longer needs clothing donations, nor has any storing space left, most NGOs have either suspended receiving such donations, or has been directing them to other municipalities that are in need.
The Red Cross, which has asked any further donations to be made in money, has been planning to invest in Social Centers that specialize in health and psychological care for the victims, as well as distributing food and household items.
In order to collaborate with the Red Cross, monetary donations can be made through a direct deposit to their account:
Cruz Vermelha (Red Cross)
Bank: Banco Real
Account no: 1793928-5