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A flood of memories after Brazil’s latest disaster

The 2024 flooding in the neighborhood of Roncalle, a short walk from where the author lives. (Image by Rafaela Fernanda, used with permission.)

Belford Roxo, Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL – Every year, and every summer between January and March, heavy rains happen in Rio de Janeiro. The tragedies reported in TV broadcasts never seemed to be possible to happen close to me, until it happened. 

My neighborhood always had floods, the ones where it is impossible to leave home. Cars couldn’t pass through the streets because of the amount of water that caused the rivers and ditches nearby to overflow. 

If you are lucky and live in a higher region of the city, your family and your home will be okay, and safe. This was how we thought that night. My entire family was getting ready to go to sleep when I went into the backyard and saw the dirty water coming in at a level I had never seen before – it usually just came into the garage.

But at that moment a couple years ago, I noticed it was moving too fast and in big quantities. 

Flood water in front of the author’s garage. (Cassiane Saraiva/YJI)

I started screaming about the scenario that I was seeing, my family came outside to see, and in just a few minutes, we already could not do anything to prevent the water from coming in.

We started running around the house trying to pick up everything we could, everything that would surely get caught in the mud, and put it high up in the house.

I still remember my sister crying seeing her bedroom furniture being soaked, the books that she had in a little box being lost.

I remember my mom with sad and disappointed eyes because of where we live.

My father said then that we had been paying many high taxes to the government only to have this happen. He said politicians knew they needed to take action on these ditches, on water drainage problems and more.

Meanwhile, the mayor, in a speech to the public, just said they did what they could, and what they’d always done.

I was perplexed, and fear took over my entire mind. In a moment, the rain was getting stronger, we did everything we could that night. After getting dirty from the water, we stayed all together in the living room praying to stop raining and the water to stop coming in. 

This was one of the moments in my life when I noticed how life can change in just a few seconds and everything has a new meaning. 

When the storm passed, we started cleaning our house and getting in contact with family and friends to see if they were fine. 

When I went to sleep that night, every time I woke up, I was scared that the water would be coming in while I was sleeping, and I would not know.

The stench and the items we lost are gone, but the fear and trauma are still with us.

Unfortunately, this happens all over Brazil, in small cities like mine and the big ones. We just have and can count on ourselves, we have been finding strength, methods, and hope. 

Even people who don’t have much come together to help as much as possible, donating clothes and food.

From this experience, I could see how people from my city cultivated empathy and believe that, hopefully, one day things will be better and all of the flooding will no longer traumatize us, but be just a fair memory of persistence and courage.

Cassiane Saraiva is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

Read more from YJI about the recent flooding in Brazil:

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