2010 Landslides in Brazil

Brazil suffered large landslides in the beginning of Janurary 2010. The most destructive ones were at Pousada Sankay (Sankia) in Pria do Bannal on the island of Ilha Grandre (see figure 1) and at Morro de Caricoa in Angra dos Reis (see figure 2). Both locations are found in the southern part of Brazil near the city of Rio de Janerio. The landslides would be classified as mud-flow landslides brought on by the severe and constant rains that Brazil experienced in the months leading up to the events (see figure 3). The extreme storms in this region saturated the soil on slopes like the ones in Sankia and Morro de Caricoa. This saturation caused the “rocks and sediment to be loosened from the stable underlying bedrock”(Horton). Without any stability the earth lost friction and could no longer hold up against the gravity of the slopes. Finally the slopes failed and the saturated loose earth slid down the side of the slopes. Moreover, Brazil's soil contains clay, which is the one on the most landslide susceptible materials. The slides were very fluid-like and did not contain much debris. The majority of the solids found in the landslides were mud and clay. These slides were so fluid because they were caused by rainfall. They were not unexpected because the area had been getting such heavy rainfall and flooding in the months preceding the slides.
Figure 1 Sankia in Pria do Bannal, Ilha Grande-- after the landslide(Source 1 )
Figure 2 Morro de Caricoa in Agra dos Reis-- after the landslide(Source 1)
Figure 3-graph showing the rain accumulation in brazil in the end of 2009 beginning of 2010(Source 1)

The landslides were quite devastating for Brazilians; they caused a large numbers of fatalities and destroyed many buildings. On Sunday, January 3rd, at eight pm, the number of deaths in Rio de Janeiro was sixty-three. In Angra dos Reis, there were eighteen bodies that were found between a lodge and homes that had been destroyed by a resort. The total number of deaths in Angra were up to forty-one. In Sao Paulo, the death toll rested at ten people. Three people that lived in Minas Geris died as a result of heavy rains that made flooding and landslides. There have been ninety reported deaths due to the disasters, and sources say that there could still be victims in the debris that have not been discovered yet. Additionally the landslides have left about 1800 homeless and about 5,755 displaced (see Figure 4). Since the roads are blocked, the victims are living without “aid, clean water, and power” (Grudgings). Like in most after-maths of natural disasters, it is the people that are living in poverty that are suffering the most in Brazil. The landslides and extreme rain has left many of them homeless and without basic necessities like medicine and clean water. It is especially concerning that many people do not have shelter because the heavy rains continue, and there is a possibility that more landslides will occur. Along with the hundreds of homes that were buried in these disasters, some larger buildings have also been damaged. The landslide in Sankia destroyed the popular Pousada Sankay Hotel (see Figure 5), killing twenty-nine tourists staying there for New Year’s when it unexpectedly occurred in the middle of the night on January first. They believe that there are still three more guests buried in the debris.
Figure 4 Victims of the landslides in Brazil(Source 3)
Figure 5-The Pousada Sankay hotel-- before it was destroyed by the landslide(Source 1)

It was quite concerning that landslides occurred in the town of Angra dos Reis, where there are two nuclear plants (Angra 1 and Angra 2). At this point the landslides have not affected the nuclear plants, but there is a high probability that more landslides will occur in Angra dos Reis since the storms continue to rage on. Brazil is considering closing the plants down as a precaution even though they are working well and are experiencing no problems do to the landslide. The problem is that if future landslides damaged the nuclear plants, or any other problem happens that may cause a dangerous nuclear unbalance; there would be no way for people in the surrounding area to evacuate because the roads are closed. Much of the infrastructure in Angra dos Reis has been damaged by the slides, and the roads that people would need to evacuate are too damaged to travel on. Angra dos Reis's mayer,Tuca Jordao, is considering closing the plants just in case anything happens to cause the plants to becomes hazardous to the people living in Angra dos Reis. No action has been taken to close the plants yet, but the mayer assured the town that if the landslides continue he will shut them down temporarily. He does not want to take any risks that will endanger his already devastated town. Closing the plants would cost Brazil a lot of money because it creates a great deal of the country’s energy. This is concerning for Brazil because the recent landslides and flooding have already destroys many homes and other buildings. The Brazilians are already living in poverty, and closing the plants even temporarily will cost them money. Of course the Brazilian government will close the plants if it is a potential risk to its people, and having two nuclear plants close to a failing slope is potentially hazardous.
The heavy rains in Brazil were the obvious cause of these devastating landslides, but the country's poverty may also have played a role in the recent events. The 2010 landslides were not the first destructive earth movements in Brazil. In the past many landslides have occurred in the country, mostly along the southern coast. The region has a long history of failing slopes. If the country had the proper funding, they could have installed drainage systems on the dangerous slopes years ago. Additionally they could have perhaps built debris basins at the base of slopes that were prone to landslides. There is no way of knowing for sure if these actions could have mitigated Brazil's recent mud-flows, but precautions like drainage systems should be taken in the future. Unfortunately parts of Brazil are quite poor and there probably are not funds to take these precautions outside of the country's large cities. Also because of the region's poverty, the slides caused much more damage to the cities. The homes were not well built and so they were easily destroyed by the landslides. The Brazilian president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has authorized 46 million dollars to start to "rebuild homes destroyed by landslides, relocate families living in unsafe areas, and recover the slopes (Source 6)." Other organizations are also trying to raise funds to help Brazilians rebuild. Unfortunately these people will probably rebuild their homes in the same spot, and will still be in risk of losing their homes again in the next landslide. Without mitigation people living in these areas of Brazil will always be in danger.

Works Cited

1. “Another Large Landslide in Brazil.” Dave’s Landslide Blog. 1 Jan. 2010.
11 Feb. 2010. Web. <http://daveslandslideblog.blogspot.com/2010/
2. “Brazil Landslides ‘May Close Nuclear Plants’.” BBC News. 3 Jan. 2010
13 Feb. 2010. Web. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8438842.stm>.
3. “Severe Flooding Affects Brazil and Peru.” The Resource Foundation.
16 Feb. 2010. Web. <http://www.resourcefnd.org/component/conte
4. Grudgings, Stuart. “Brazil Landslides Kill 72, Leaving Towns Isolated.”
Reuters. 11 Feb. 2010. Web. <http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS
5. Horton, Jennifer. “How Landslides Work.” How Stuff Works. 12 Feb. 2010.
Web. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/landslide.htm>.
6. "Brazil to Release 46 mln Dollars For Reconstruction." BNET. 8 Mar. 2010.