The popular image of Rio (particularly abroad) is of sun, beaches, people relaxing and having a nice time. All those things (and much more) do happen in Rio, but visitors are sometimes surprised (and disappointed) by something else. The rain.
Some friends of mine once came to Rio for 10 days. It rained every single day. I remember seeing them just after they’d been to see the Cristo Redentor. I asked them how the view had been (the iconic statute is the highest point in Rio and on clear days the views of the city are breathtaking). “We could just see his head” they told me.
As well as putting a dampener in people’s holidays and leisure time, the rain here has a more serious side. The sheer intensity of the downpours can be incredible.
Here is some footage I took last night – it’s not great quality, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how full-on the rainfall was:
Lucky for me the roads and buildings in my neighbourhood are fairly well maintained.
When rainfall this intense and sustained is combined with Rio’s steep hills and the poor planning and construction in the poorer neighbourhoods, the consequences can be disastrous. Last night in Niterói a 13 year old girl died and her two siblings were injured when a landslide caused a wall to collapse. The details seem a bit sketchy, but it seems she was protecting her siblings at the time.
This is by no means an isolated incident. Just two weeks ago, flooding killed 2 and displaced 3,000 families in an area just north of the city of Rio. And back in 2010 there were multiple flooding and landslide events that caused hundreds of deaths across the state. Then in 2011, floods and mudslides in the Serra region caused at least 900 deaths.
There have been complaints that money set aside for rebuilding and flood/landslide protection has not been spent and from what I’ve read, these complaints are legitimate. Today I hear that the mayor of Niterói is promising an alert system with warning sirens.
I think these extreme weather events are a huge challenge and would be a huge challenge for any country. But the regularity of these disasters and the promises of action that come afterwards must surely be testing the patience of the residents of these danger areas. As one commentator put it, the promises of action are as regular as the annual rains, yet when the rains falls, the promises, like so many buildings, collapse.