The rain was click-clacking against my window as I rose from my bed, and my first thought was that I would be late for work. The water pouring outside was of apocalyptic proportions, and the wind was wooshing like it does when St George is having a serious case of PMS. As I sat in the dining room eating rye toast for breakfast, I realized my concern with being on time for work were only a teeny tiny footnote in what would happen in the next few hours because of this storm.
Rio de Janeiro is known as a sunny, cheerful destination – though there are apparent social differences, as a holiday destination it is mostly know as an unclouded city. Most of the time, that’s what it’s like; it’s hot, humid and incredibly bright. The beach can be a weekly location to visit for some residents, and people can sit outside most of the time, if they want to.
But summer rains when the summer rains hit the state of Rio, it is hardly a happy place to boast about. The water reveals how unhygienic the streets are, how clogged the sewers have become because of lack of upkeep, the negligence for our nature and public transport and, especially, the fragility of human beings who live in this environment.
In 2010 there were around 34,890 people who became homeless due to strong rains in the state of Rio, but there are indications these numbers could be even bigger as only a few counties were accounted for. In March, 31 people died in Petropolis due to floods and collapsing of favela homes, dangerously perched on the famous hills of the city. Two hundred families were left with nowhere to live.
As I write this, a man driving a van was killed by a falling tree. Residents of all neighborhoods have been tweeting images of how devastated their location is. Newspaper O Globo has reported 15 neighborhoods have no power, and 53 public schools were closed due to floods. It would not surprise me if the body count is higher by the end of the day, not even counting the number of homeless people it will leave behind.
Year after year, summer rains kill scores of people and leave hundreds in the cold, with nowhere to go. The main problems are the wrath of nature against the lack of care the government has towards it. If the falling of trees is a 100% sure, guaranteed event, why aren’t they taken care of, trimmed, made safe? If it is known that many favelas run the risk of flooding, then collapsing, why aren’t they removed or their homes made safe?
It’s the same thing every year. The city stops, and people die all over the state. Everything floods, the streets are disgusting to walk on, manholes explode, trees fall. And billions go to rebuilding sports venues for international events we don’t even deserve to be hosting.