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. GuerillaGorilla

    Why is it when someone survives a terrible incident all the christians come running and pointing screaming "Look! God saved him!" Yet when there is a disaster and no one survives the christians turn around and say that God had nothing to do with it!

    Fact: Lots of rain created mud which all but buried a town in Brazil.
    Fact: This man survived a terrible ordeal due to pure luck and the fact that his own body created an air pocket that kept him from suffocating.
    Fact: Hundreds (possibly over 1000) other people were killed by the self same mud slide.
    Fiction: God reached down and saved this man for some purpose or another.
    Derivative Fiction: God only saves the survivors because he has a plan for them.

    Based on what you are saying, and the unspoken derivatives, God let hundreds of people die in a terrible disaster, yet saved a few so they could spread the word about how mericful God is for sparing them. Sorry, but I don't want to believe in a God who could save you one second, then turn a blind eye the next.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chi

      if you believe in God, then you also believe in heaven (as well as hell) so, saying God let so many people die is actually true because God, in heaven, knows that death is not final and has called these people to him. whereas, those who lived still have some unfinished business here on earth. I'm usually not this preachy... but after seeing all the horrible news...specifically that of the new trend, Self immolation... it goes to show that what we hold on to so strongly here on earth is nothing in comparison to what heaven represents.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      @Chi – So "God called them home?" What about the non-believers, the pagans, and everyone else who is not of your religious persuation? Did he just kill them off and send them to Hell because he could? Now he just sounds like a child throwing a temper-tantrum.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • HeIsGod

      @ GuerrillaGorilla – And why is it that disaster happens or some one is killed, Atheists are quick to come out like demons from h*ll to spew their hate towards God?

      January 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • HeIsGod

      As long as you think that humanity has all the answers to life, you will never get the REAL answers you are seeking for. Want REAL answers as we did, seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all this things shall be added unto you day by day.

      January 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • cricket

      I believe in a spirit, God if you will, but don't believe in heaven or hell. I do good for the sake of doing good and not because of the threat of burning for eternity in a fire. I don't believe that God created the universe or that God dictates what happens on earth. God is my soul. I respect the Bible as a great book of stories with lessons to be learned but I follow the Golden Rule. I percieve God in my own way and in a way that I can accept. So not everyone who believes in God believes all the other stuff. I respect that others believe differently and will never tell them they are wrong nor will I try to sell them my way of thinking.

      January 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • @BamBam

      See, I am a generally kind and caring person and have until recently had absolutely no prejudices although i recently found out that i am apparently racist against christianity. The only reason i hate such things are because they make people like Chi and Helsgod. First of all, i completely don"t understand. You try and make someones well written, well thought out comment untrue by trying to use a fiction with no factual proof AS proof! That would be like me saying that the world is flat and that's the truth because batman told me. Be serious! The one person in this entire comment that i actually agree with is Cricket. I have nothing against what you believe in although i see what you believe in more to be faith than religion. I believe that if there were one, you seem to be the only person that actually took the right meaning from the bible. I thank you. Also i have no idea how you can be racist against something that doesn't exist.

      January 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DAVINCIKODE

      If you don't believe GOD THE LORD OF HOSTS then you are DOOMED!

      January 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ellis

    You wont have any more sunnier days you will rot in hell

    January 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Edson

    Ellis, apart from your prejudiced remarks regarding my people, I'm certainly much better than the tag of a soccer player, though not offended if I was one, and as for my brain Really, faith and reason not always go together, I have both and by no means I will try to convince you of anything.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ellis

    Yes sunny i have a list and you are next the devil is calling you and your mamma

    January 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • carl

      Santa?

      January 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*sunnierdays

      Ellis, I was making a remark Jose.
      Speak when spoken to.

      I wouldn't add you to my list.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ellis

    Todos los de brasil son maricones

    January 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Edson

    I know that there are many gays in the US too, Ellis, no offense intended here, and in Brazil we speak Portuguese, not Spanish.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ellis

    Tu pareces que eres cueco Edson dime la verdad

    January 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ellis

    Learn how to speak Portuguese and then we can talk, you are a shame to your country.

    January 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ellis

    Nice words you must be a priest i know all the bible and have read all the prophets i agree with you

    January 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Edson

    GuerillaGorilla
    God gave humankind the capacity to make their own decisions and take over their consequences, I think that explains some of the tragedies that happen around the world

    January 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fernanda

      Somebody remember New Orleans, 2005?

      January 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ellis

    Edson I was kidding and testing you look at all the garbage that has been said and everyone forgot about the poor man in the mudd

    January 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*sunnierdays

      Yeah the man in the mud went to gay issues again. HOW? And WHY?
      Because God made you that way? Stop blaming GOD for all the problems and believe in his love to solve them. Embrace yourself or nobody will.

      Stop bashing people who are true believers.
      Start loving yourself.

      Wishing this man a speady recovery.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. obviously

    Sarah Palin's fault.

    January 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ellis

    Palin was caught cheating on her husband

    January 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. denounced.

    Does anyone else find this bible babble to be irrelevant? Leave religious debate for the theologeons. Good that someone survived. A shame the infastructure of Brazil is so poor, that this could not be properly monitored and avoided. Hope the families of those lost find closure.

    January 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Theologians and the Republican party, you mean...else we all go to hell for adopting government-provided healthcare!

      January 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bill

    god damn the pusher man, give me a break about god, pleeeeaaaassseeee

    January 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*sunnierdays

      Another roll over the hill weedman is all you need

      January 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • HeIsGod

      Bill, no one is forcing to read a comment of those who claims God in it. Just ignore it, simple. Stop whining about it.

      January 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
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