“Right now, my place is not at my desk”

by Ruth Bücker, 2011/01/15

Since early Saturday morning coordinator and nurse Nils Stilke, logistician Christian Simmons and the experienced relief doctor Dr Irmgard Harms (Hindelang) have been on their way to Rio de Janeiro.

In the meantime, another medical team has already been compiled, consisting of Dr Dirk Laue (Bassenheim), Dr Martin Ulbricht (Zell), medical student Simon Oeckenpöhler (Cologne) and nurse Katrin Hoffmann (Garmisch-Partenkirchen). Headed by humedica CEO Wolfgang Groß, this team will set out to the disaster region from Frankfurt Airport on Sunday evening (January 16, 2011).

A parking lot in Nova Friburgo that was hit by a mudslide. Photo: alertnet.org/Reuters/Bruno Domingos

Right now, my place is not at my desk, but at the side of my Brazilian friends and I want to know if our children and employees are all right,” explained Wolfgang Groß regarding his decision to travel to the region between Nova Friburgo and Teresopólis, which is still cut off from the outside world and where the humedica Children’s Village is located at a hillside.

The day care centre where we take care of 250 children is very close to my heart. Together with Pastor Sergio Veiga, I have worked to build it up from scratch since 1994, and over the years I have got to know all the employees. I pray that the children at our day care centre are not affected directly, as the landslides went down at night. I will fly to Brazil tomorrow, to be with them.

In the meantime, it is still difficult to establish contact to our local employees. We have still not been able to talk to them personally. However, the former head of humedica Brazil, Pastor Sergio Veiga, reported that he had been in Nova Friburgo and that the situation there was disastrous.

Via his son Levi he sent us the following message:

“According to official numbers, Nova Friburgo has about 182,000 inhabitants. Since it is one of the cities which have been affected worst, so far 260 casualties have already been confirmed. According to estimates, about 5000 persons have lost their homes and need to be moved to emergency accommodations.

Their village has been hit by a mudslide – rescue forces take those affected to a safe place. Photo: alertnet.org/Reuters/Luiza Garcia

Last Monday, when the disastrous landslides went down, my father was in Nova Friburgo himself. Fortunately, he returned to Rio de Janeiro on the same day and thanks God escaped the disaster. But thousands of others have been less fortunate.

At the moment it is difficult to reach Nova Friburgo or Teresopólis by car. Highways are partly blocked. Some of the roads have been swept away and do not exist anymore.

Due to the cities being cut off like this, it is also difficult to describe the actual situation. Since there is also damage to the telephone network, we only receive information via the media.

What is clear, however, is that help is urgently needed and that rescue teams are too few in order to get the situation under control. Furthermore, up to now rescue teams could not reach all those regions affected, since the roads leading there are blocked and access is made even more difficult by geographical circumstances. Even hospitals have been buried by water and mud.

From our very hearts we would like to ask you to help our country. Drinking water, emergency accommodations and of course doctors and nurses can contribute to easing the situation. Please help us!”

By means of helicopters, the three coordinators who arrived in Brazil on Saturday evening (January 15, 2011) will be taken to the disaster region. Please support our project which could already be started thanks to the generous support of the German Federal Foreign Office, which contributed 170,000 euros.

      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Landslide Brazil
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Please also donate online and support us and the people in Brazil by means of sending a text message: send the reference DOC to 8 11 90 and you will contribute 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica project work.

The city of Nova Friburgo seen from above. Photo: alertnet.org/Reuters/Bruno Domingos

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