France – World – “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring”: victims of floods in Brazil confide their fears

France – World – “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring”: victims of floods in Brazil confide their fears
France – World – “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring”: victims of floods in Brazil confide their fears

Reunited again, he hugs Mara, 45 years old. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We’ll have to start from scratch,” says this 35-year-old man who earned his living as an informal recycler in Porto Alegre, a city still submerged following the Rio flood. Guaiba.

Amid mountains of donated clothes and toys, nearly 800 people are housed in this gigantic hangar in the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which has been in the grip of an unprecedented climate catastrophe for almost three weeks. this part of the world, which left more than 150 dead and around a hundred missing.

– “Nature returns to us what we do to it” –

Some of them hope to return home when the water recedes, others are already giving up, like Marcia Beatriz Leal.

Wearing a white turtleneck sweater, a tattoo above one of her eyebrows, this 50-year-old woman lived in a house she rented in Estrela, a town located in a devastated area of ​​the region. At his side, Pietro, his seven-year-old son, and his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, asleep next to him.

“This is the third time” that it has suffered a flood.

This will “to fight, to seek to recover again and again, everything disappears”, explains Marcia Beatriz, who was in Porto Alegre with them when the endless flood began.

She didn’t even try to return home.

Two of the victims of the floods in southern Brazil, in Porto Alegre on May 18, 2024 AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA

This animal clothing designer says she feels better after “crying” during a conference organized by the unit, within the town hall, which deals with the mental health of the population, in a reserved area of ​​the shelter .

She hopes to settle with her mother and son in another place, sheltered from the increasingly intense rains in the region, a disturbance linked, according to scientists, to climate change and the El Niño phenomenon.

“Nature returns to us what we do to it,” says this woman.

– He lost everything, but is already thinking of starting again –

Under a colorful blanket alongside Mara, Rafael Adriano Peres also has no doubt on the subject: “Human beings are destroying the planet and it will get worse”, particularly as “deforestation in the Amazon will not stop”.

The current tragedy in the south of Brazil is “proof” and, “tomorrow, it could happen in Belo Horizonte (south-east), in other cities”, adds this man who has always thought that “the water would never reach” his house.

Some 13,000 people are gathered in the 149 shelters in Porto Alegre, a modern city of 1.4 million inhabitants, according to local authorities.

For Marta Fadrique, coordinator in charge of mental health problems at the town hall, the fear that the floods will happen again can be felt among the people most affected. However, she considers that, in the majority of cases, this feeling ends up diminishing.

“Fear is normal” in this “acute” phase of the drama, just like anxiety, insomnia and “distrust of everything”, explains this psychologist in the exterior courtyard of the shelter visited by AFP , where several rows of clothes are drying in the sun and children are running around, as if oblivious to the tragic events taking place.

Habraham Elises Gil, 25, is a Venezuelan who immigrated to Brazil six years ago due to the serious economic situation in his country.

With his wife and two children, he managed to rebuild his life in Porto Alegre as a cleaner, settling into a house and buying furniture.

He has lost everything, but is already thinking of starting all over again.

“Children give us strength. Life goes on,” he says.

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