January 19th, 2011
11:43 AM ET

Rescue of man buried alive for 16 hours in Brazil mudslide captured on film

On a street cluttered with debris from a mudslide rescue workers heard a noise.

The flooding and mudslides that resulted from a month's worth of rain in one day have turned the once-picturesque tourist town of Teresopolis, Brazil, about two hours north of Rio de Janeiro, into a wasteland. Bodies and belongings remain strewn among fallen boulders as relatives search for loved ones.

In one mound of rubble, a faint voice could be heard. After so many stories of sadness and loss, that voice provided more than enough hope for rescuers to begin digging quickly.

As workers began what would be a three-hour process of pulling apart mud-covered rocks and debris, journalist Luciano Zimbrano, armed with a handheld camera, began filming, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.

His dramatic video shows a crowd forming as workers remove layer by layer of debris, first revealing an arm. Then the back of a head appears.

Rescuers and Zimbrano soon learned that a man was trapped facedown 13 feet below the mud.

Slowly rescuers reached the man, and after putting a neck brace on him, they were able to pull him from the rubble, where he had been for 16 hours. He was put onto a stretcher as onlookers cheered.

It was only then, according to the Telegraph, that Zimbrano realized he knew the man he was filming - Marcelo Fonseca.

After the rescue, from his hospital bed, Fonseca told the Telegraph of the moment right before he became trapped.

"When I opened the window I only heard that loud thud and I only had time to run," he told the Telegraph. "When I ran and reached the front door it was such a powerful thing, that I only saw some pieces of the roof flying and some pieces of wood." He became completely trapped and had trouble breathing.

"My chest was being crushed by a stone and I was trapped; my two feet were trapped," he told the newspaper.

Rescuers say because he was face down, there may have been an air pocket under him, enabling him to breathe throughout the ordeal.

The 42-year-old man, according to the newspaper, is in the intensive-care unit but is expected to make a full recovery.

The story has captivated those who have seen the video - perhaps because of the dramatic nature of it - but also because of the grim toll of the flooding and mudslides in Brazil.

Maj. Carlos Falconi told CNN that rescuers continue to find survivors but mostly those who are trapped in their houses. The government said the death toll surpassed 700 Tuesday. Falconi said he expects the number of deaths will likely reach 1,000 when search-and-rescue operations are completed.

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Filed under: Brazil • Weather
soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. Esteban Bernal

    My god, I could not believe that man was still alive. I wish the other victims could of been so lucky.

    January 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. craig smith

    This helsgod caracter just don't have a clue does he?

    January 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. craig smith


    January 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. craig smith

    Well all I can say about it is that man is very lucky to be alive and it is what it is!!!!!

    January 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. riss

    This whole debate about religion is unnecessary. You can believe what you feel saved this man. There is no need to push anything on anyone. In all honesty it is a bit childish to argue with someone you don't even know about a subject that will get any discussion going down hill

    January 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mmmmm

    This man looks like a newborn baby being pull out of its birth canal...

    January 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      ...his head has finally crowned. good thing someone has chosen life for him...it's a boy...cigars and blue ribbons for everybody!

      January 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. niittymäki

    Isn't the 'devil' the best friend of the church? After all, 'he' has kept it in business all these years!?!

    January 20, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Billy

    I am pretty sure rescue workers saved him. Tell me, EXACTLY what did God do to save this man? This is not hate, there are a few "self-proclaimed" Christians on here spewing just as much hate, thinking if they read the bible and believe in God they are saved. Sorry, but that is not true.

    January 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
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