She Almost Lost Her House. Now She Helps Those Who Weren't So Lucky

Nursing assistant escaped landslide for only 10 yards and turned her house into a base for the rescue teams

Sérgio Rangel
Rio de Janeiro

She lost her first house in 1988, while still in her teens, when a large rock opened a hole in the place where she lived, at the top of a favela at Tijuca, northern Rio. Then, three years ago, the nursing assistant lost her second dwelling. The city of Niterói expropriated her house to build a tunnel.

But at early Saturday (10th), Dilma Ferreira, 46, woke up with a roar of "several converters exploding at the same time." When she woke up, all she saw was darkness and the dust rising after a massive rock rolled down and smashed seven small houses at the Niterói neighborhood where she settled for the third time.

Ferreira opened the door and ran to the main street. The pile of wreckage stopped less than ten yards from her house, which she bought seven months ago with the money she received for leaving her previous residence.

Nursing assistant Dilma Ferreira, 46, who turned her house into a base for rescue workers in Niterói (RJ) - Sérgio Rangel/Folhapress

"It was horrible. All I could hear was the people screaming and begging for help, buried by the earth," she described, as she sat in front of her garage on Monday (12th).
So far, 15 people died, and 11 were rescued alive.

Ferreira's house became an informal headquarters from relief workers, from both the city and state, who are rescuing victims and clearing the wreckage.

Since the rock rolled down, she has slept only three hours. She sent her children and grandchildren to stay with relatives, so she could have more space to receive donations and the rescue workers. "I haven't been able to close my eyes. I slept only three hours last night."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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