Jan 18, 2011

Brazilian saved after 16 hours buried in mud

A man has been rescued after being trapped for 16 hours by a landslide in Brazil.   The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Marcelo Fonseca, 42, was found buried under 13 feet of rubble. Video footage shows rescuers digging through thick mud with their hands to reach Fonseca, who is seen covered from head to foot in dirt.
The landslide, caused by torrential rain and floods which hit Teresopolis and other towns north of Rio de Janeiro last week, wrecked his house.   The film was taken on Wednesday by Luciano Zimbrao, the Telegraph said, describing him as a journalist and friend of Fonseca.
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The paper said Zimbrao was unaware initially who was being pulled out of the mud.
'Crushed by a stone' Fonseca, who was treated in a hospital intensive care unit, is expected to make a full recovery, the Telegraph said.
"When I opened the window I only heard that loud thud and I only had time to run. When I ran and reached the front door it was such a powerful thing, that I only saw some pieces of the roof flying and some pieces of wood," he told the newspaper.
"My chest was being crushed by a stone and I was trapped; my two feet were trapped," he added.   Fonseca said he struggled to to breathe because of the weight of mud pressing down on him.   Rescue and supply operations were still going on Monday, following the disasters, which have killed at least 655 people.   One helicopter team rescued five people Monday morning, Brazil's Air Force said in a statement, as clearer weather conditions allowed the aircraft to more safely navigate the craggy terrain.
Hundreds of people are believed to still be in areas at risk of fresh mudslides, some of them cut off from help by smashed roads and bridges while others refuse to leave for fear their houses will be raided by looters.The army is operating four helicopters from a makeshift base on the training ground for Brazil's national soccer team in the town of Teresopolis.   The death toll has risen steadily as rescuers dig out more bodies from the wreckage.   Authorities have given no estimates of the number of missing, but Folha de Sao Paulonewspaper said on Monday that 120 people are still unaccounted for.   Some residents have complained at what they say has been a slow response by authorities in getting basic supplies to isolated communities and helping people dig out dead relatives and friends.
"We want to leave. We have had no news, we don't know if our relatives died," Pedro Paulo da Silva, one of 40 residents in an isolated area, was quoted as saying by Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper after rescuers reached them at the weekend.   A fresh landslide on Sunday near the town of Petropolis killed three people, media reported, highlighting the risks posed by rain forecast for the region in the coming days.
In the capital Brasilia, the government sought to fend off criticism over its response by announcing that it would implement a national alert system to warn people in risky areas of approaching natural disasters.   The announcement came after the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that Brazil had failed to meet a series of recommendations on improving disaster preparedness made by the United Nations in 2005.    Citing a letter sent by Brazil's Civil Defense agency to the U.N. last November, it said the government had not yet implemented recommendations such as setting up the alert system and investing sufficiently in infrastructure in risky areas.
"There is a culture in Brazil of waiting for something to happen and then responding to it," the head of the Civil Defense agency, Humberto Vianna, was quoted as saying.   Still, little criticism has so far been directed at Brazil's new president, Dilma Rousseff, despite her single, brief visit to the disaster zone last week and her decision to spend the weekend far from the devastated region.   The federal government has earmarked 780 million reais ($463.5 million) in emergency aid for the region.   Brazil's Valor Economico newspaper praised Rousseff's response to the disaster in an editorial on Monday, saying she had passed the first test of her presidency by acting rapidly and taking adequate measures.

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