.- Two Catholic bishops in the region of Rio de Janeiro have reported on the arduous work carried out by the Church in response to torrential rains and flooding that have so far left 765 people dead.
According to a Jan. 20 bulletin from the Civil Defense of Rio de Janeiro, the municipality of Nova Friburgo reports 357 deaths, followed by Teresopolis with 323 deaths, Petropolis with 64, and Sumidouro with 21.
Regarding the Church’s efforts to address the tragedy, Bishop Filipo Santoro said the situation is dramatic as there have never been so many deaths in such circumstances. “We cannot stop speaking about the fact that solidarity is being shown everywhere,” the bishop said.
He noted that many churches and schools have opened their doors to those made homeless by the floods. “It is a network of solidarity that can’t be measured. People are seeking the best way to help and that can be done through unity and companionship, as we have done,” he said.
Bishop Edney Gouvea Mattoso of Nova Friburgo said the work of recovering the bodies of victims is difficult but continues to take place. “Our work has been effective in obtaining donations of basic necessities, coats, and in the fraternal and spiritual care for those affected. Many of them were left with only the clothes on their backs and have wandered aimlessly through the streets,” he said.
Some sectors in Nova Friburgo can only be reached by helicopter, he added, warning that while the rescue effort continues, “it is very difficult, especially because damage to roadways is preventing immediate access.”