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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The night the sky fell, and the mountain began to flow to the sea …

Camillo and I have been told more than once that we live a charmed life.  After Tuesday night, I am becoming a believer. 
At 11: pm, another thunderstorm began to move through, and like I had done for the past 4 nights, and off and on through the days, I turned off the computers, unplugged everything including the internet connection, and at midnight we went to bed.  At 12:30 Wednesday morning the lights began to blink so  I closed my book and turn them off as thunderstorm continued to rumble through.  At 2am, the lights went off and came back on (the alarm clock starts blinking and woke me up), at 3 am, they went off again and stayed off.  It was totally black, the street lights apparently off also.  A total neighborhood blackout.
The lightening flashed, the wind howled, the rain pounded on the roof, and I slept. 
When I got up Wednesday morning I made my coffee, life was normal; no electricity – which meant no internet and no phones but in the summer rainy season this is normal.  It would be a quiet morning.  I  took my coffee out on the veranda to greet the day and before me the land showed ugly welts of red, stripped of trees and grass, as far as I could see from one edge of the veranda to another the mountains had slipped and made a run toward the sea.  All around us. 
DSC_7466By the time we were through with breakfast the neighbors began to come by.  We started to hear the stories.  Lucia, our maid, had lost her home, her daughter’s was also gone. The road below us and back to Lucia’s house was impassible,  The road to Lumiar and to Mury were both closed; and the mountains were still coming down.  Our neighborhood was closed to the outside world.
By noon we knew that four family members of the workers had been lost.   We learned that Lucia’s daughter had also a broken leg and the daughter had been carried on a wooden door taken from the rubble; out by foot through the forest and down the mountain to Mury and then helicoptered to Cachoeira de Macacu for surgery.  A young boy who lost his parents also had a broken leg and was carried out by his neighbors.  Cars could not get in or out but motorcycles could and they did; in and out, up and down, checking on family members, bringing in necessities, finding ways around the slides and keeping us all informed.  Off and on all day we were checked on and updated on the news.  We heard of Friburgo: with no communication with the outside world we were informed by word of mouth, all of you knew more about what was happening than we did.
On Thursday morning we knew that the death toll was upward of 100 in Friburgo and that recovery would be slow; all of Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis were involved, resources where being stretched, collections were being taken to help cloth and feed those who’d lost everything.  By Afternoon the death toll was climbing to 200.  Raphael took phone number of Camillo’s family to try and get messages out that we were okay.  We were ask by the gardener’s sister if we needed anything from town; they were walking down to town and carrying food back.  We were fine.
Our house had no damage.  We had food in the cupboards and in the Freezer.  I was low on coffee – good heaven I couldn’t ask Manuel’s sister to carry me coffee up the mountain.  As soon as the roads opened we had another home to go to – one with electricity and internet, and air conditioning if we want it.   Yes, we live a charmed life. 
On Friday we went through our closets and gave two bundles of cloths; we cleared out the freezer of the foods that would need to be cooked that day and sent it down to Manuel and his family.  We bought a ticket to Rio and spent 5 hours a little anxious about traveling down the mountain.  All around us was chaos and we lived on – our charmed life.


  1. Glad to see you are alright. Always a bit dangerous in that region this time of year.

  2. Through your pictures we can tell the mudslides didn't affect only the "deforested" areas. It was really a major climate disaster and even though there are some irregular occupation to blame, the amount of devastation and deaths is unprecedented in that region and mostly due to the intensity of the storm.

    I feel for your neighbors/employees/friends.

  3. That must have been a terrifying experience Ginger. I'd heard reports of the flooding on our news here.
    So glad you are safe.

  4. Glad you made it through safely. So your neighborhood community was spared? Have you heard of the impact to Boa Esperança (where we know some of the residents)?

    Your post certainly makes this whole disaster (which continues) more personal to me.

    Those are proud people up there around Mury, Lumiar, São Pedro and Boa Esperança. My heart goes out to them.

    I have been on other forums and responding to il-reported news stories correcting that this is NOT another tale of mudslides in the favelas (which are also tragic) but rather a disacter that has cut across all lines.

  5. I'm so glad you linked on FB. I've been wondering about you and am glad to hear that you are okay.

  6. Oh Ginger, how awful! It's hard to imagine devastation on such a huge scale. There' no force like nature, is there? But even when she does her worst, human kindness persists.

    So glad you are safe. Long may your charmed life continue!

  7. So glad to hear you are safe, Ginger. The photos are devastating. I cannot imagine. Praying for your neighbors, friends, family, etc. and everyone in the region -- truly, truly devastating. So grateful you are safe.

  8. Ginger,

    Your pictures are worth more than a thousand words...as well pointed out by Jim, this was not a negligence construction type of event.
    This was definitely a Natural Disaster at it's worse...you clearly demonstrated that with your pictures of pristine Forested mountains that came crashing down ...
    Thanks for sharing.


  9. Glad you all are safe!!! As soon as I heard where the affected area was, I immeadiately thought of you! Glad you are alright. So sorry for the loss of all those people. I just can not imagine.

  10. We toured Buzios, Teresópolis and Niteroí on December 30th. It was beautiful, shadowy and haunting.

    We were horrified to hear of the news as we prepared to go back to our home in Brasília (we're teachers at the American school here). You're story is far more moving than the stats on the news feeds.

    I've linked your post in my most recent post: I look forward to talking to further conversation.