Updates from Brazil: Chiran Livera
- January 19, 2011 1:13 PM |
- By Your Voice
(Submitted by Chiran Livera)
Bio: Chiran Livera is currently on the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies response team assessing the impact of the flooding that ravaged parts of Brazil last week. The floods have killed more than 600 people and left many without access to medical supplies, proper shelter, food or water. Originally from Vancouver, B.C., Livera has worked for the Canadian Red Cross in several provinces.
The CBCNews.ca Community desk asked him to share a few details of the recovery efforts in Rio de Janeiro.
Submitted on Jan. 18 - 'Grave but hopeful'
I arrived in Rio de Janeiro a day after the major floods and landslides and have been here now for nearly a week. I came to support colleagues from the Brazilian Red Cross who have been working around the clock in responding to this emergency.
Since I arrived, the situation has been very dramatic and full of adrenaline. The major damage has been in areas outside of Rio de Janeiro and this is where the Red Cross is most active. The volunteers, who themselves have been affected by the floods and landslides, have unlimited compassion and courage as they continue to do search and rescue activities and evacuation of wounded persons. This has been the highlight of my time here so far.
During the first few days, the only method of access to the area was by helicopter. As the weather improved and emergency crews continued to remove debris from the roads, we were eventually able to use four-wheel drive trucks to enter the towns. Inside, the situation was grave but also hopeful. There was widespread infrastructure damage, but with neighbours helping neighbours, everyone played a role in providing relief.
Similar to what I have seen in other emergencies, the resiliency of the affected persons is incredible. Water levels had risen in some areas to five feet and landslides had buried entire blocks of houses. However, amidst all the chaos, people wasted no time in cleaning the debris and attending to the affected persons.
Heavy rains are common in this part of Brazil, but the large accumulation over a short period of time overwhelmed the soil absorption capacity and led the rivers to overflow. There were times over the past few days where we had to momentarily stop activities as landslides continued to occur. Fortunately, many people have evacuated and are in shelters and with relatives outside the affected areas.
Livera, far right, is working with the Red Cross in Brazil to assess the damage caused by the floods. (Submitted by Chiran Livera)
Submitted on Jan. 20 - "We had made a difference"
As the relief work continues in the towns of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis, affected people have told us they do not know where their family members are. After the landslides, many went to shelters in neighbouring towns. One of the first things people need after a disaster is to know where their loved ones are.
Yesterday, I went with a Red Cross team that provided some comfort to families longing to be reunited. Our day began early as we packed our four-wheel drive vehicles with satellite phones and notebooks. We drove two hours from Rio de Janeiro to Nova Friburgo, one of the most affected towns, and had a brief meeting with the civil defence co-ordinator to inform him of our intentions.
One of the first people we came across was a woman searching for a brother she believed escaped the landslides. After a few moments of calling our teams in other towns, we found that her brother was also searching for her, and we offered our satellite phone so they could have that first conversation. The happiness in her face as tears fell gave us all the satisfaction that we had made a difference.
My colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross continued these activities throughout the day as I headed back to the civil defence office to continue co-ordinating our relief efforts.
A woman talks to a relative over the phone for the first time since floods in Brazil displaced families from their homes. (Submitted by Chiran Livera)
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