A strong storm caused landslides on hillsides, floods and the loss of 45 human lives in the Baixada Santista metropolitan complex, between the night of March 2 and the dawn of the next day, in 2020.
I remember being in the room, sitting at the computer editing old photographs when the rain started. Ahead, noting that the intensity wasn't decreasing, I looked out the window and the streets were flooded. I decided to go down, prepared my gears, dressed appropriately and started walking carefully in the middle of that dirty water that overlapped the sidewalks and even some small walls. In some moments the water level reaches my waist or a little more (I'm approximately 1.85 meters tall).
In that night I photographed a lot of people facing chaos to return to their homes or while working. In addition to broken cars, there was a lot of garbage. I decided to stop and return to home when realized that the floods were still going strong. A certain fear involved me in staying there.
I didn't imagine waking up the next morning to the news of the landslides and deaths that occurred at the same time in places not far from where I was, but invisible to many sights and concerns. Since then, whenever it rains hard, I think about what may be happening in these vulnerable areas of the city.
It was predicted that the volume of rain would be 257 mm for Santos, 254 for São Vicente and 263 for Guarujá, throughout the month of March. On this single night, it rained 239, 207 and 320mm, respectively in each city.
Among the 45 human victims by the heavy rain and landslides all over the metropolitan complex of Baixada Santista during the dawn of March 3, 2020, 34 of them were in Guarujá.
The most impacted places in the city were Morro do Macaco Molhado, with 9 fatalities and Morro Barreira João da Guarda, with 22. Both places evidence the tremendous social inequality that dominates Brazil.
Families are forced to live in risky areas, inside houses that are often made of bad wood on unstable terrain.
In the first favela, firefighters Marciel de Souza Batalha, 46, and Rogério de Moraes Santos, 43, are among the lives lost. They were hit and buried by the rubble of a second collapse, during a rescue operation in the risk zone.
With the climate crisis intensifying, there is a tendency for these episodes to become more and more frequent. So it's fundamental that we mobilize ourselves as society to transform the future reality of our own.
These photographs I took while accompanying volunteers clearing the rubble looking for victims. Many were relatives of people who were buried, others were residents of the region.
People came from neighboring cities to contribute to the workforce and somehow alleviate the pain of those who lost loved ones. I helped to remove some of the rubble myself ... I did not last more than half an hour in this arduous task. The work was manual, quite intense and the infrastructure was scarce.
Text and photos: Felipe Beltrame.