Sunday, January 16, 2011

MMA & the Death Toll in Brazil

By Sean Farrell
In Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, state floodwater has been gushing through hill towns as giant boulders are launched from hillside, instantly mutilating cars and houses. So far, 540 people have been killed and another 10,000 plus people living here have been affected by the torrential downpours that started with the year, rescuers have not been able to reach some hard-hit areas and many more people are feared dead, the conditions are so treacherous that search and rescue called it quits Thursday night and resumed their search and recovery work Friday morning.
The rain is being predicted to resume for the next several days in areas submerged in water or mud already. Thousands of families are still living on slopes or riverbanks and face being washed away. Residents described the disaster as a tsunami that fell from the sky. Mayhem triumphed in the hard-hit city of Teresopolis, where residents wore masks and helped clean or deliver first aid. Others swept through the city, searching desperately for missing loved ones.
All of the schools and police stations have turned into overflowing crypts, where people are waiting to identify their family and friends. Red Cross volunteer Maria Helena de Jesus was applying first aid.”You have to almost have a heart of stone,” she said. “It was very difficult.” Teresopolis Mayor Jorge Mario Sedlacek declared this city a natural disaster area.
So far at least 229 people died in Teresopolis, while 246 were killed in the town of Nova Friburgo. Brazilian authorities have been criticized for their lack of natural disaster planning and also allowing civilians the right to build homes in areas known to become dangerous in the rainy season. Brazil is under tremendous pressure to show strong response seeing how they host the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics. People used inflatable rafts or inner tubes to navigate roads. One family was perched on the roof of their home watching themselves on television. Another civilian clung to a rope, trying not to succumb to the force of an ocean of muck and brown water.
Brazilian authorities have ordered evacuations for at least 5,000 families living in especially perilous areas in Rio de Janeiro state, Agencia Brasil said. Another 3,000 families from a mountain region were homeless and sheltered in schools and gyms. State officials pleaded for people to donate blood that can be sent to the Serrana region, where only 36 units of blood remained for treatment of flood victims. Sao Paulo as well has been affected with 24 deaths confirmed there so far, a pair of MMA training camps are turning to aid the community and ask for assistance in battling mudslides.
With countless already dead in the Rio de Janeiro municipality, and countless more missing, Florida camps Team Armory and American Top Team have started a charity fund at and are taking donations to assist in the relief.
MMA Manager Alex Davis, a native of Nova Friburgo is on the ground in Brazil assisting with relief has described the devastation to “Dear friends – MMA friends and everybody – I’m talking to you guys from Nova Friburgo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, It’s my hometown. I can’t even begin to explain to you what’s happened here. There are entire regions that have been wiped out. Thousands of people are without water and food. Hundreds of people, if not thousands, are buried under mudslides so deep that they will never be found. Whole families have been wiped out. It’s to the point that there may be no one left to even remind us that these people were once there.
As I come back home after working with the relief and rescue teams and I get a glimpse of what’s in the media, I see that what’s getting out to the world in no way does justice to what’s really occurred here meteorologically and geologically. At this point in time, the world cannot see how much suffering is still in the future of these Brazilian cities and communities. Roads and bridges have all been wiped out, leaving thousands of people isolated with no water, no food, no electricity. Big parts of the region are completely isolated. It simply isn’t possible to dig out all the bodies buried in the mud, and the stench and illnesses will start affecting the population in the next few days. In my hometown of Nova Friburgo, there are three hospitals that serve the city, the surrounding smaller cities and the rural areas, but one has also been brought down by landslides, putting another piece of suffering in the way of the population. I could go on and on about the dramatic stories of loss of lives, as well as the heroism of the rescue workers as the population tries to deal with the calamity that has come on top of them. Rich and poor, cops and robbers, everybody is working together trying to cope with what has happened. It’s a disaster worse than any of us could have fathomed in our worst dreams. Please keep these people in your minds. Please help in whatever way may be within your means. There are thousands and thousands of people in a really, really bad situation.”
Brazilian fighters play a major role in the growth of mixed martial arts, including the Gracie family, who gave life to the UFC. With relief efforts hampered by continuous rain, fatality reports slow to develop, the mudslides however have already claimed the life of the mother of famed grappler Pablo Popovitch. MMA Manager Joe Mullings told that American Top Team head Dan Lambert has already made a substantial contribution, as has corporate sponsor Muscle Warfare, but more help is needed. Relief funds can currently be donated through Paypal, but Mullings hopes the newly-established org will have its 501(c) non-profit filings in place by Monday, which will open up more options for support.
“We’re expediting the process,” Mullings said. “We’re getting a lot of support from the government. Bank of America has stepped up and done some nice things for us. Probably by Monday, we’ll have it to where you can text money in with your cell phone. We’ll also have a Bank of America account set up. Alex is on the ground in Nova Friburgo. All the money will go directly to the city for some of the most desperately needed items, including food, medicine and shelter.”
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