Science and TechNatural Disasters


After Brazil Mudslides, Grief And Faith Among The Ruins

Hundreds of people were killed after the mudslide event in Brazil in mid February,
Alex Sandro Conde, 42, looks from his home at the devastation caused by a landslide
Posted at 11:34 AM, Feb 27, 2022

Every day, Alex Sandro Condé leaves the shelter where he has been staying since deadly landslides devastated his poor, mountainside neighborhood and seeks out others who have suffered loss. He doesn't have to look hard.

Condé can't even walk a block without stopping to place his hand on someone's shoulder and offer a hug, a kind word, spiritual counsel. That's how great the grief is in Alto da Serra — Sierra Heights in English — which he had called home for all his 42 years and considered "the best place on Earth."

A devout evangelical Christian, Condé sees it as his divine mission to be strong in the aftermath of the disaster so others can lean on him. He says God directed him to offer comfort, compassion and assistance to others and, fortified by his faith and Scripture, help heal the stricken community.

"'Whomever you see needing help, you go help. I'm keeping you on your feet,'" Condé said he was told by the Lord. "God is giving me the right words to bring encouragement to every person who needs it."

One day about a week after the landslide, he was walking through the streets when he came across a shirtless man, whom he knew. They had lost a common friend, and Condé threw his arms around the man. For a time, they rested their heads on each other's shoulders.

Across the street, Condé spotted another man, Adalto da Silva. On the day of the slide, da Silva had been hurrying down the mountain with his 21-year-old son when the mud caught them; the son slipped away and was swept to his death. Downhill, da Silva's wife had tried to keep their 6-year-old daughter safe between her legs, he said; their bodies were found in the mud, still in that embrace.

Condé sat da Silva down on a chair, then knelt before him and held his shoulders. They spoke for a long period, staring into one another's eyes, and Condé told him he felt his pain. Da Silva cried.

There's always someone else in need of comfort: The Feb. 15 slides destroyed dozens of homes in Sierra Heights and killed more than 200 people citywide.

 Additional reporting by the Associated Press.