A fire erupted in the favela nearest to us yesterday afternoon and burned for about four hours, during which the favela was completely destroyed. As I sat and watched the fire burn in Campo Belo, all I could think about was the people who lived there…and the loss of everything they owned, which, in worldly terms, wasn’t much. I prayed that no one was killed as the flames swept through the wood and paper divisions of the houses.
I have never been that close to a fire of that size and was amazed at the voracious appetite of the flames. According to the newspaper, 258 shacks were destroyed within 4,500 square meters, and 1,000+ people were left homeless. Four people were taken to the hospital, for smoke inhalation and burns. (Just spoke with our Dona Maria, our faxineira (maid), who said that there were at least 4,000 people living there. The 1,000 number is a political estimate.
Cynic that I am from time to time, I can’t help but think how handy it was that the favela was annihilated: it’s right on the edge of new construction for high-rise apartment buildings, along a corridor in Campo Belo where new construction is springing up everywhere you look. Isn’t it handy that this last favela is now gone? (Dona Maria said the same thing as soon as she saw the burnt out site from our window.)
And now, the homeless will have to relocate themselves, and not be relocated by the city. Just sayin’.