Brazil Flooding: Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Need

Brazil flood

The flood waters in the city of Codó washed out entire homes and left more than 3,000 residents in this town homeless. Photo courtesy of Caritas Brazil

Fr. José Wasensteiner of the parish of Sao Raimundo, City of Codó, state of Maranhão, reports on flooding in and around his parish.

Flooded parts of northeast Brazil, especially in our city of Codó, are in chaos. While some of the water has receded, many streets are impassable and thousands of people are homeless. In Codó, about 3,206 people have been displaced. Of these, 58 families, almost 300 people, are housed in day-care centers and in the São Raimundo parish.

The floodwaters, propelled by two months of incessant rain, have submerged entire houses in communities near the Itapecuru river. The first flood occurred between the 21st and 24th of April, following heavy rain that began early in the month. The water rose very high and flooded houses in the Saint Antonio quarter of the city, but the situation was relatively controlled. But as the rain persisted the river overflowed its banks, causing severe flooding the nights of May 3 and 4.

While the water is receding in some areas, the damage remains. Most homes are partly or completely destroyed. Shock will really set in once people return to their homes to see fallen walls, exposed wood frames and their adobe foundation washed away. There are enormous holes in the streets. Dirt has washed in homes and streets.

The entire area is now without clean water and working sewers lines.  Due to poor waste management practices, families are dealing with large amounts of garbage in their homes, wells and drainage systems.

The threat of an outbreak of waterborne illnesses looms over these affected towns, where poor families live. People who had contact with the water are experiencing excessive skin rashes and fever. Residents have lost their possessions:  beds, closets, mattresses, TVs, their stocks of rice from the last harvest and more. Because families had little to begin with, it is fairly easy to place their remaining possessions on the beds of small trucks.

Though much is lost, a great act of solidarity is lifting some of the grief and burden from displaced residents. Young men have been generous to help families move their items onto trucks. Some residents have generously provided their vehicles to help move people to safety.

We visit flood victims daily at the parish compound. Each of their stories is emotional. The families are thankful for the aid and shelter they’ve received. They are able to stay at the parish for as long as they need. Perhaps our community can be a little testimony to the face of God in these days.

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