Samarco requires elder women to prove incapacity for wringing clothes to refund washing machine destroyed by the mud

Photo of the couple front of their broken washing machine

On the morning of November 6, 2015, Teófila and Francisco were hearing all the news from the residents of Gesteira district, the most affected region in the rural town of Barra Longa (Minas Gerais). "It was a mess in the streets: cars honking, people running, screaming. A lot of people at the square. It was after midnight when the neighbor came calling in to say that the flood was coming, “says Teófila, also called as Cenita.

Francisco recalls that at about 4 am, he was at the border of the Carmo River and thought the river was not going to rise much. "I picked up a stick to ward off the leaves and saw it was not water. Then I shouted: Cenita, this is not water, its mud, "says Franciso, who is 71 years old.

Realizing that the river was coming up, they ran, took the ducks, chickens and a dog that was in the yard and took all, with great difficulty, to under the house. "I thought there the mud was not going to arrive. We lived here for almost 30 years and the biggest flood we got here,  was in 1996, the flood only came close to the first column of the home. But there was no way. The mud came up, up, taking everything. We ran and everything was gone, "says Cenita.

A mud that drowns memories and brings infringement of rights

Photo of Francisco pointing at the yard under mud

Francisco shows from the kitchen the leftovers from the yard: mud, holes, a mountain of dirt that is suffocating the mango tree, the ruins of the hen house covered by mud, a broken washboard abs, a lot of dirt, stench. He recalls: "I saw my tools all under mud. My equipments, sawing boards, everything was well packed, and now all rotted in the mud.”

But beyond the losses in the backyard that was a source of income and employment of the couple; many basic family utensils are lost because of the mud. Among these is their washing board and machine. Since the tragedy, the neighbors come to help to wash clothes or they take turns to wrings the clothes that cannot wait. Exercising their right, they asked Samarco Mineração, owner of the dam that ruptured, that return more urgently at least the washing machine, which is very useful, even to ensure hygiene.

To the surprise of the 69 years women, when ordering, a social worker demanded that she prove she really needs it."She asked me to submit to a medical report to prove that I have no strength to wring the clothes. I have osteoporosis; I take several medicines "tells the elderly. When she went to take her husband to a neurologist in the city of Ponte Nova, she asked the doctor to make the report. But another surprise, the doctor said he could not do it because it was not his area. Cenita then went to the clinic in Barra Longa and asked for a report for a general practice doctor who ended up giving a simple report that was delivered to the social worker.

Thiago Alves, a member of the state coordination of MAB who is living in Barra Longa to accompany families affected, says this is another situation that shows the company's disregard for the population. "This is an absurd, unacceptable, violates basic rights of those who are the most vulnerable. We have seen it a lot in this city. Therefore, we are holding a follow-up work with the families, visiting, listening to the people, be a supportive presence, but at the same time, urging all it takes to organize to secure the rights, if Samarco behaves like this in basic things, imagine when we discuss compensation and resettlement "asks Thiago.

Cenita and Francisco live in Morro Vermelho neighborhood, 23 houses are seriously damaged and the people had to move. They are moving this week to a rented house. The couple hopes that the machine is still delivered this week. The Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) will demand the company's explanation on this case and require that washing machines and other basic equipment have to be delivered without pre-conditions and will continue denouncing Samarco's excesses in Barra Longa and region.