city ​​is between mourning and tourist stampede

A week after the rock collapse that killed ten people in the canyons on the 8th, Capitólio (MG), 280 km from Belo Horizonte, is balanced between mourning the victims and concern about the impacts on tourism, the main source of income for the region.

In the city and neighboring São José da Barra and São João Batista da Glória, hostels report cancellations after the accident — in some cases, 100% of the rooms. Rainy weather also gets in the way. The prefecture did not issue official numbers.

Images of the collapse circulated the country and became the main topic of the city, which took on the mourning of the dead. “It was very impactful. As soon as it started to circulate [a imagem do desmoronamento pelo WhatsApp], everyone was scared, [os turistas] started to come back. Nobody really understood what was happening,” says housewife Francisca Santos, 52, who lives in the city.

Last Thursday (13), a group of boatmen and residents took a walk around the Furnas lake to pay tribute to the victims. The only reason they didn’t go to the accident site was because it remains interdicted by the Brazilian Navy, which carries out the investigation at the scene.

Amid the mourning, a new concern emerged among workers in the region: the cancellation of reservations since Saturday night (8), the day of the accident.

The receptionist of one of the hotels in the region, who said she could not give her name, says that, at the establishment, five rooms were canceled over the weekend and another three on Monday. According to her, some guests justified that there was no security, others said that they did not have the mood to enjoy the city.

In a luxury inn (around R$700 per day) located between Capitólio and São João da Barra —a city that also borders the lake and has tourism as one of its main sources of income, second only to the Furnas dam—, the owner says that all six reservations for this week have been cancelled.

According to her, the guests who were, left the place on Sunday (9), but new ones did not want to check-in.

Retired Alberto Teófilo, 71, who in high season works as a street vendor at the viewpoint of the Furnas dam, about 10 km from the accident, says that movement is weak.

“There are almost no cars. The road here was supposed to be full at that time, but the rain doesn’t help either,” says Teófilo, who has sold more popsicles to dam employees than coconut water to tourists.

“It’s scary, but since we’re here, we stay”

capitol - Lucas Borges Teixeira/UOL - Lucas Borges Teixeira/UOL

View of the artificial beach of Capitólio, in Minas Gerais

Image: Lucas Borges Teixeira/UOL

The couple José Eduardo, 33, and Luciene Camargo, 29, arrived in Capitólio from Araçoiaba da Serra (SP) on the afternoon of the accident. They say they are afraid, but after driving for more than five and a half hours, they would try to enjoy the trip. They still see the availability of tours.

Before arriving, we already started receiving the videos through WhatsApp. Relatives asking where we were. On the road, there was a lot of movement of ambulances, firefighters. It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it?”
Jose Eduardo, tourist

Furnas lake was completely closed until Tuesday (11), when firefighters suspended the search. Some stretches have already been released, but the canyon region, where the accident took place, is still closed by the Navy.

Part of the waterfalls, another attraction in the region, was also closed during the week because of the rains, at the risk of headwaters (when a large amount of water goes down at once).

Rains also get in the way

“It rained 15 days in a row, with heavy blows. With a bucket. I would stop for an hour and come back. This also gets in the way. Who wants to take a boat ride in the rain, with cold wind? Then, with the accident….”, he says. the waitress Eliana Vale, 26.

She has worked at a restaurant in the central part of the city since the reopening of the trade last year, and says that this period is similar to the resumption, when the number of tourists grew again, but remained low.

“Lots of empty tables. Since Monday [10, pós-acidente], I don’t know if it’s an impression, but it looks like it got worse. I think people are scared.”

Despite the decrease in rainfall, the Capitol region is expected to change between cloudy days and light rains until the end of January, according to ClimaTempo.

Cause under investigation, police say

The causes of the collapse are still unclear. At the beginning of the week, the Civil Police began, with the Navy and the Fire Department, an investigation to determine if the case was a natural accident, caused by the rains that devastate the state, or had human interference, influenced by the construction of a viewpoint. on the upper rock.

“The focus now is not looking for culprits, but answers. We are working alongside science. In addition to our core of experts, we have several specialists and geologists”, said delegate Marcos Pimenta, from Passos (MG), who heads the investigation.

Without definition, the ten deaths are not included among the 25 deaths caused by the rains in the state since October – this year alone, there were 19, according to the Civil Defense. In all, the storms have already taken more than 30,000 people from their homes in Minas Gerais in the rainy season.

Businessman Renato Gavião, 59, who owns a brewery in downtown Capitólio, says that this was an unprecedented and isolated case and should not scare away tourists.

I’ve lived here my whole life, I’ve been fishing there for 40 years and I’ve never seen that. My father never saw this. It was an accident, a very sad fatality, but an accident. The authorities have to do their job of inspection, but they cannot remain in this sensationalism that everything can fall at any moment.”

Last Sunday, the mayor of Capitólio, Cristiano Gerardão (PP), declared that the city was commissioning a geological study to assess the safety of the rocks around Lake Furnas.

THE UOL questioned the Capitol City Hall about the impact of the accident on tourism in the place, how it intends to deal with the situation and how to support the damaged businesses, but there was no response. The Secretariat for Economic Development, responsible for tourism, was also contacted, but with no response.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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