12th Janeiro 2011. In the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, namely Teresopolis, Nova Friburgo and Bom Jardim massive flooding and landslides result in the deaths of over 700 people and leave 5000 homeless in Bom Jardim alone. Poor planning and continual deforestation preceded this preventable disaster – now Tibá is assisting the town to get back on its feet and put into place measures to ensure a tragedy of this magnitude does not repeat itself.
On the day the first course for January was supposed to begin (Bamboo) we awoke to no power, telephone or cellular access. As we are 3km from the local town of Bom Jardim and at the top of a hill it was difficult to imagine what was waiting for us when we went to explore what had happened a little later that day.
We realised it was impossible to get into the town by car and likewise for people arriving for the courses to get to TIBÁ…but still had no idea the severity of the situation until later that day.
The river running through the town had risen nearly 10m during the night and by morning many houses, belongings, bridges and cars had been violently washed away…what was left of the houses was filled with nearly half a meter of silty mud.
This house is one of the closest to Tibá and next to the river. We started clearing the house of mud and the road in front so that cars could get past. Note the pau-a-pique construction and the water level that the river reached. These people were lucky in that they had the second floor to save some of their belongings but most people in the town were in one storey houses and lost absolutely everything.
The tragedy is that an ecological disaster such as this could have been prevented. This area had already had many warning signs with a precursor to this flood occurring in April 2010, and yet these signs were not heeded. Now the prefeitura has made the bold decision to not allow power or running water back to the houses that were built illegally along the riverbank – however that does not assist the 5000+ people in Bom Jardim alone that were made homeless through this disaster.
We are now proposing temporary and permanent housing for these displaced people, made cheaply and easily from Superadobe and Cascaje concrete slabs that have a minimum to no ecological footprint and will provide examples for the future.