“They were together all the time, and that was the case when they were found,” a Sao Sebastiao resident said in tears after rescuers discovered his parents’ bodies buried in the mud in the south -eastern Brazil.
• Read also: Landslides in Brazil: 44 dead and 38 people still missing
A recurring scene in recent days, after the torrential rains which killed at least 48 people in landslides.
Torn by emotion, the visor of his black cap lowered to try to hide his sadness, this man with the pepper and salt beard prefers to give only his first name, Marcio.
His parents had lived in their modest home on the hill of Vila do Sahy for more than 30 years, the area of Sao Sebastiao most affected by the deadly storm, about 200 km from Sao Paulo.
All that remains is a pile of bricks amid the mud, pieces of rock and tree branches.
The landslides have blocked the road along the coast in several places, isolating the victims, who depend on boats or helicopters to be supplied with food.
Dozens of firefighters, soldiers and volunteers dig tirelessly to unearth the bodies buried in an ocean of mud.
They use diggers, chainsaws to prune uprooted trees and frequency detectors to try to identify victims with their mobile phone signal.
Nearly 3,000 people live in Vila do Sahy, most of them in precarious hillside dwellings.
Faced with the pile of rubble, the relatives of the 38 missing identified by the latest assessment of the authorities await the announcement of bad news which now seems inevitable.
Mason Antonio da Silva wades through the slush to closely follow the work of the soldiers who are digging to try to find his three missing teenage nephews.
Not far from there, the firefighters had managed to save a baby, after having dug up two corpses. “A miracle,” says a rescuer who prefers to remain anonymous.
Taiara Lopes, a 26-year-old housekeeper, said she was also miraculous, after finding herself buried in mud up to her shoulders in her kitchen.
“I was sinking, but I grabbed a tree branch and my husband ended up pulling me out. Afterwards, we went out through the roof, ”says the young woman with her legs covered in scratches and bruises.
But the more time passes, the less the victims hope for a miracle.
“Access is difficult, because the houses are very close to each other, with large amounts of concrete mixed with the mud,” laments Rodrigo de Paula, captain of a fire brigade.
Elenilson Batista Gomes, 47, is still without news of her son Caio and her daughter-in-law Michelle, who were married just four months ago.
“I will not leave until we find them. I want to give a dignified burial to my son and his wife,” he said.
Four sniffer dogs are active in an area where there were about ten houses. Thanks to them, the firefighters manage to dig up the body of a man stuck against a wall and two others under an uprooted tree.
Natalia Cerqueira, a 25-year-old volunteer, has been helping rescuers for three days. But she feels “useless”.
“We remove the mud, we dig up corpses and there are always more, it never stops,” laments this cook in a school canteen.
Maria Vidal, 50, knew many victims who were not “lucky” like her to survive the mudslide that passed just outside her door, up the hill.
“I was shaking like a leaf, the only thing I could do was hug my grandson really tight.”
“I keep seeing pictures of dead children,” she says, trying somehow to hide her distress at her four-year-old grandson, who is playing with a Superman figurine.
Lucas da Rocha, 31, father of two little girls, is also inconsolable: he has lost several close friends.
“I’m waiting for the road to be unblocked to leave with my family. Other landslides could take place at any time,” he warns. It is not possible to live in constant fear”.
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