The climbing death toll from the flooding and landslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro have made it the worst climactic disaster in Brazil's history. So far, over 700 have died in the tragedy, with the cities of Nova Friburgo and Teresopolis the hardest hit, losing over 270 people each.
The impact has been felt in the region's strong mixed martial arts community. Nova Friburgo is the hometown of well-known MMA manager Alex Davis, along with UFC lightweight Edson Barboza, and other fighters including Pablo Popovitch and Marlon Moraes.
Both Popovitch and Moraes have personally experienced the worst kind of pain from the disaster, losing loved ones. Popovitch, a jiu-jitsu superstar who successfully made his MMA debut in 2010, lost his mother, who was trapped and died in the family's home when it collapsed in a landslide. His father was rescued but remains in the hospital.
Barboza's immediate family is OK, but his wife saw her family's home severely damaged.
Davis, a co-founder of the world renown American Top Team gym and also a manager of fighters including Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, Todd Duffee and JZ Calvancante, is currently in Nova Friburgo helping with the relief efforts.
On Monday, he released a statement giving some of his observations on the terrible destruction. In it, he noted that whole communities were isolated by bridges and roads that had been destroyed.
"After the initial loss of life to the mudslides and flooding, this was to be the largest crisis to be faced, and is still at this very moment, a crisis of huge proportions," he said. "There are pockets of communities all over the region, most very poor even in normal times, and now without water, electricity food and even the most basic necessities. The effort is now to bring aid to these people."
Davis said that because roads are impassable, helicopters are working day and night to get food and water to many people. It has been a Herculean task, but one the local community has embraced.
"Normal people in the streets guiding traffic, people forming human chains to unload donations, volunteers backpacking water and milk to the isolated communities, everyone coming together in a huge effort to help their brothers," he said.
Unfortunately, the heavy rains that have caused the landslides have yet to subside, as meterologists are forecasting rain until Friday.
The Wall Street Journal has estimated that reconstruction will cost at least $1.2 billion, though it's clear the scope of the destruction and its economic cost will not be known for some time.
Just one month ago, the UFC announced it would hold an event in Rio in August 2011. The capital city is about 90 miles southwest of Nova Friburgo. The sport has deep roots in the country, with the nation's Gracie family considered the founding family of MMA.
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