Evandro Alves has seen floods before in Brazil, but never like this. ‘This was the worst,’ he says. ‘There have been three major floods in Recife. However, [our church] is nearly 100 years old, and has never been impacted like this.’
On 28 May, extreme rainfall hit the state of Pernambuco, north-east Brazil. Rivers, streams and canals quickly overflowed, flooding surrounding neighbourhoods. And then the ground began to fall away. The rains triggered mudslides, wiping out many of the poorer communities that are built on hillsides. At least 129 people were killed, and more than 9,000 people were made homeless.
Evandro works for Coqueiral Baptist Church, who have been partnering with Tearfund in the region for 16 years. Flooding has long been an issue with the Tejipió River, and for years the church has been training groups in how to prepare for and respond to emergencies like this.
As soon as it became clear that a huge disaster was unfolding, these groups swung into action to get people to safety – even before firefighters managed to reach the affected areas. Although the work has been incredibly difficult, with many streets and alleys inaccessible, these groups have saved more than 400 lives.