More than 1,000 service members of the Brazilian Armed Forces have been working since February 16, 2022, to support victims of the flood that occurred a day prior, in the municipality of Petrópolis, in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro. After a month’s worth of rain fell on the city in just three hours — the heaviest rainfall since 1932, according to Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro — much of the city was left in ruins, with homes and shops destroyed by the flooding, the BBC reported.
In early March the death toll reached more than 230. More than 1,100 people are in shelters after losing their homes to this tragedy. To coordinate the humanitarian operation, the Ministry of Defense created the Eastern Joint Command.
Working jointly with other federal and local agencies, service members have been using many resources, including vehicles, ambulances, tractors, and helicopters to clear roads, provide medical care to the wounded, search for survivors and missing persons, distribute donations and medicine, and transport people.
“In addition to existing means in Petrópolis, the Eastern Joint Command remains on alert alongside other troops and resources ready to support operations in affected areas, according to the needs and demands of Civil Defense organizations,” Army General José Eduardo Pereira, commander of the Eastern Joint Command and Eastern Military Command, told Diálogo.
In less than two weeks, by February 28, Army Engineering service members had cleared 46 streets. The Brazilian Army supported governmental aid agencies in the rescue of 48 victims and removed about 2,000 cubic meters of debris, such as rubble and mud, the equivalent of more than 130 trucks. The 32nd Mountain Light Infantry Battalion unit, based in Petrópolis, has been serving as a center for landing operations and airspace control. A school that operates within the Battalion is also being used as a shelter for people left homeless.
The Brazilian Navy set up a field hospital, which by February 28 had carried out more than 1,500 medical consultations, including low complexity general surgery, internal medicine, orthopedics, pediatrics, and dentistry. A total of 300 service members were deployed to the field hospital, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
The Brazilian Air Force, for its part, transported 310 tons of donations, including mattresses, clothes, water, food, hygiene kits, and cleaning materials.
Part of the military team in Petrópolis also participated in the efforts to help victims of the floods of 2011 in Nova Friburgo, another municipality in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro, which caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and left almost 35,000 homeless.