Ten years ago, on the morning of January 12, Brazil awoke to catastrophic scenes in a region of the country previously only known for its bucolic landscapes. In the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, TV newscasts showed footage of devastating mudslides, drowning provincial tourist towns under a sea of brown sludge. Rescue teams from the Armed Forces searched frantically for survivors, often in vain.
Rainfall from the previous evening killed residents from seven cities in the region. According to the official death toll, 918 people lost their lives and 30,000 were displaced. However, even ten years on, the exact count is unclear. Entire families living in the region’s rural areas have never been seen again, with the Public Prosecution Service estimating that at least 99 people are still missing.