By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The death toll from Saturday’s (November 10th) tragic mudslide that engulfed a group of houses at Morro Da Boa Esperança in Niterói has risen to fifteen. The latest victim, a three-year-old boy, succumbed to cardiac arrest at the Azevedo Lima hospital on Sunday (November 11th), according to government officials.
The boy was one of eleven people who was rescued after being buried alive from a massive mudslide that occurred early Saturday (November 10th) in the small neighborhood in Niterói, about an hour from Rio de Janeiro.
The mudslide destroyed ten houses and a pizzaria. Firefighters and volunteers worked frantically for over fifteen hours on Saturday pulling out survivors buried in the rubble.
“I woke up scared. It seemed like the world was ending,” exclaimed local resident and volunteer, José Teixeira, who lives directly in front of the mudslide. “It was all dark. My son and I ran out to help save people. We saved about five, but the rest died.”
Officials confirmed that the mudslide killed fourteen people, with rescue workers able to save eleven.
The deadly mudslide occurred after several days of heavy downpours throughout the area which caused government officials to advise residents to seek safer ground.
“It rained a lot over the past two days and a state of alert was declared for Niterói,” explained Roberto Robadey, head of Rio’s civil defense department, to Globo news. “People were advised of the situation and were recommended to move to safer locations.”
However, at a press conference on Sunday, Niterói’s mayor, Rodrigo Neves, attempted to exempt the city from responsibility indicating that the tragic occurrence was unexpected, despite the heavy rain in the days leading up to the mudslide.
“In 2012, there was a study of risks in the area and none of them indicated this was a high risk area,” explained the mayor, who also revealed that Niterói uses a system of sirens that are activated during heavy rain to alert residents of potential mudslides.
“Warning sirens have been operating in Niterói since 2013, and this community did not even have them because it was not a high risk area,” he claimed.
“And even if they were sirens, they would not have been triggered because on the day of the tragedy it was not raining.”