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Unaccustomed to Hurricanes, Brazilians Not Preparing for Irene

Not used to hurricanes, the Brazilian population was not heading the warnings of Irene and taking precautions. To get the word out, a Framingham-based Portuguese radio station held an hour-long show about Irene.

Framingham's Brazilian community wasn't really believing the hype about Irene.

At a Brazilian supermarket at 195 Hollis St., none of the emergency essential items, such as milk, water and batteries, flew from the shelves.

“Brazilians don’t have a tradition to prepare for a natural disaster such as Irene,” said Alceu Venturoso, co-owner of Smart Market, who caters to the Brazilian and Hispanic populations. “Some comment that it’s (Irene) not so terrorizing. But I believe they don’t follow the American media.”

Venturoso said Saturdays’ sales are usually higher than normal, but today’s sales are slimmer than in previous weeks. It looks like a normal rainy week day, he said.

It is not that Brazilians are unaccomstomed to natural disasters. Every January, Rio de Janeiro suffers recurrent flooding. This past January, insistent rain led to enormous landslides from the mountain tops of Rio, causing more than 400 deaths.

Brazilians while used to natural disasters have not really experienced hurricanes. The closest Brazilians have been to a hurricane was in February 2008, when a brief tornado (category 1) coasted through Tubarão, a city at the southern state of Santa Catarina.

“I’m planning on taking my entire family to the (Natick) mall. We’re not taking the chances by staying home,” said Cecílio Abraão, a father of two who lives on the North side of Framingham.

Others like Rev. Geraldo Talhadas were taking the warnings seriously. He was worried about the safety of the people who will attend services in about 15 churches in town this weekend.

To get the word out, , in Framingham, held an hour-long broadcast on Hurricane Irene, which is off the coast of the Carolinas at the moment. 

“It does not matter if Brazilians don’t have a long history of battling hurricanes, we have to broadcast precise information,” said Ilma Paixão, the station general manager. “Some people have language barriers, other religious folks believe that God will change everything, but we need to partner with local authorities to bring updates that can help families take informed decisions, and not only to Brazilians, but Hispanic, Cape Verdeans, and Americans.”

Paixão said ever since she assumed the station in May of 2010, she has never received as many calls about one subject (irene), as she has this weekend.

During the program, which aired from 2 to 3 p.m., listeners called in to ask questions and get weather information. Framingham has the largest Brazilian population in Massachusetts.

One listener wanted to know if a flight back to Brazil this afternoon was still on schedule. The host Sergio Resende guided him to call the airline hotline. 

Religious leaders called in to cancel their Sunday services at some of the 30 Brazilian-lead churches in the MetroWest region.

Rev. Talhadas announced the cancellation of an event at “Noiva do Cordeiro” Church. Although the church is located in Worcester, many of its members hail from Framingham.

Other congregations, such as “Assembleia de Deus” on Franklin Street in Framingham, plan to await more weather updates before it decides to cancel or close.

Sunday, Brazilians will follow various soccer games closely. The games represent the end of first half of Brazil’s national championship with matches between teams from the same state, which is when the rivalries are the fiercest.

“Although our headquarters is in Framingham, we’re schedule to meet another team crowd in Lowell,” said Leandro Silva, a member of Vasco’s organized crowd (a club from Rio).

On Friday, nurse Laurie Courtney urged Brazilians leaders to sign up for the Medical Reserve Corp. While speaking on air at the radio station she said Framingham needs to know how to help the Brazilian community with preventive measures and to create an effective communication strategy.

Friday night, journalists, bloggers and DJs (Editor's note: This writer one of them.) started to circulate a list of 15 recommendations put forth from Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health to protect families and minimize the impacts of Irene in Portuguese.

Tips included: keep the car tank filled with gasoline, clean front yards out of objects that can become projectiles during the storm and establish a communication strategy in case the family is torn apart.

Andrea Dunne Adrian August 27, 2011 at 09:26 PM
I was going to say, "cue the Rizolis!", but Jim beat me to the punch.
Jim Rizoli August 28, 2011 at 12:18 AM
Jim Rizoli CCFIILE.COM You know I'm right.....LOL

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