Troops sent in to build bridges for cleanup, recovery in Brazil’s mudslide areas
TERESOPOLIS, Brazil — Brazil’s army sent 700 soldiers yesterday to help throw a lifeline to desperate neighborhoods that have been cut off from food, water, or help in recovering bodies since mudslides killed at least 655 people.
Troops have already set up at least one bridge in the mountain vacation city of Teresopolis, officials said, but at least 10 main highways remain blocked in the rugged area north of Rio de Janiero where the slides hit, hampering efforts to move in the heavy machinery needed to begin massive cleanup efforts and eventually dig out bodies stuck under tons of mud and debris.
The troops plan to set up mobile bridges that can span 200 feet and are robust enough to support the hundreds of pieces of equipment needed in cleanup and recovery efforts.
Days of heavy rains unleashed tons of earth, rock, and raging torrents of water down steep, forested mountainsides Wednesday, directly into towns that are weekend getaways for the Rio area.
Rescuers had yet to reach about 20 neighborhoods, though a break in rains and better visibility allowed about 12 helicopters to begin taking supplies and firefighters in, while shuttling injured survivors out.
But pilots said flying was still treacherous in the area full of jagged mountain peaks, where there are few safe landing zones and power lines are draped between peaks through seemingly clear space.
“ All levels of government have come under heavy criticism for not alerting people to the dangers — and of allowing homes to be built in high-risk areas.
Local mayors have said they did not receive any warning a storm of that magnitude was about to hit.
In Teresopolis, mayors from the three cities hardest hit planned to begin coordinating reconstruction efforts, which have been roughly estimated at $1.2 billion dollars.