By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following a rainy weekend, on Monday, October 16th, officials from Rio’s Civil Defense Secretary were on hand in Rio’s Zona Ouest (West Zone) assuring nervous Macumba Beach residents that there was no imminent danger to any of the structures surrounding the beach’s damaged promenade.
The large waves overcame a restraining wall designed to protect the waterfront walkway. The sea water damaged the promenade’s foundation causing it to give way and collapse, destroying the boardwalk and bicycle track along with two kiosks.
Carlos Roberto Batista, the owner of one of the destroyed kiosks, described the harrowing event to Globo news, “I looked around and saw the coconut trees being taken by the waves and part of the boardwalk giving way right next to the kiosk.”
“I only had time to get my things and leave,” he added. “When I closed the door, the kiosk sank.”
Since September, Macumba beach residents and beachgoers have witnessed first hand the gradual deterioration of the waterfront promenade. Several landslides and holes developed throughout the promenade due to heavy waves and seawater.
For many residents, this gradual deterioration leading up to last week’s collapse was something that city officials have been very slow to react to. “Even simple measures such as the isolation of the area, were slow to be taken,” complained Cristiane Fernandes de Souza, who lives bordering the beach.
“Only after a tourist crashed two weeks ago while riding his bicycle and fell into a hole did the Civil Defense finally cordon off the area,” she said.
Now, despite city officials’ assurances to the contrary, many local residents fear it is only a matter of time before the deteriorating foundation causes the collapse of other surrounding structures near the beach.
“My teenage daughter normally lives with me, but now she stays at her mother’s house,” explained Joselau Ribeiro, who also lives next to the beach. “I also prefer not to stay here at night because I worry that the building will collapse.”
While now a cause for concern among many of the locals, the long waves at Macumba Beach, are among the most famous in Brazil attracting the best surfers and longboarders from across the globe.
With fewer crowds than Arpoador, Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon and more consistent waves, the beaches of Macumba and neighboring Recreio das Bandeirantes have been consistently ranked as one of Rio’s top surf spots and in 2008, they hosted the Billabong Girls’ World Qualifying Series and the World Championship Tour.
In April 2016, two bicyclists were killed when a section of the Tim Maia coastal bike path running between the upscale neighborhoods of Leblon and São Conrado similarly collapsed due to strong waves.