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Brazil: Fire in Rio de Janeiro Mobilizes Online Campaign

Photo by Gustavo Martini. Used with permission.

One of Rio de Janeiro city’s postcards, the Lagoa neighborhood, was victim of a huge fire at Morro dos Cabritos, between Rua Sacopã and Parque da Catacumba, an area of Atlantic Rainforest filled with animals, mainly micos. Morro dos Cabritos (which can be seen in this Google map), spreads to nearby Copacabana – where the Cabritos Slum is also located – which was endangered by the fire, smoke and heat.

See a video of this fire:

Since the beginning of the fire, around 10pm Saturday 19th, warnings, photos and videos began to appear on Twitter and Facebook. While there was no news from traditional media on the subject, the #lagoa (pond), #incêndio (fire) and #cabritos were among the trending topics of Twitter Brazil.

@mjcoffeeholick pega a vuvuzela pra acordar esse povo ! – RT @alerocha: Você, jornalista carioca que está dormindo. Acorda, pô. Tá pegando fogo lá.

@mjcoffeeholick get your vuvuzela and wake up the people! – RT @alerocha: You, rio’s jornalist sleeping. Wake up. It’s on fire over there.

Nina Lemos calls attention to the fact that a web TV arrived at the spot before any other traditional media emphasizing the swiftness of citizen media and of the web as a news channel:

@ninalemos Acho o máximo o @gematv furar a Globo. Amores, o jornalismo morreu. E isso é ótimo.

@ninalemos It’s great that @gematv beat Globo to the story. My darlings, journalism is dead. And that’s great!

Other Twitter users seem to agree:

@drido o #fogo comendo o parque da catacumba e a globo news mostrando uma cerimônia de cachorros se convertendo ao budismo…

@drido the fire spreads to catacumba park and globo news is showing a dog cerimony of conversion to Buddism …

@rosana RT @JJoselita: @rosana é pq tá rolando um mega incêndio na zona sul do RJ…várias pessoas indignadas com a falta de cobertura da imprensa.

@rosana RT @JJoselita: @rosana there’s a huge fire in the southern area of Rio de Janeiro… lots of people outraged at the lack of media news.

See the news report by @gematv here.

Balloon – flickr photo by @youcoulilou, under Creative Commons license

The suspicion that the fire was provoked by a hot air balloon, raised once again the question of how danger hot air balloons can be at this time of the year during the June celebrations, a popular cultural tradition in Brazil, which takes place during the months of June and July.

The Junina Celebrations [pt] are not exclusively Brazilian and diverse versions of the same celebration are found in various countries and are historically related to the pagan celebrations of the Summer solstice, celebrated on June 24th according to the Julian calendar (pre-Gregorian) and Christianized in the Middle Ages as St John’s Celebration.

The balloon is one of the symbols of the Brazilian Junina Celebrations and it has been opposed for decades for the dangers it represents, as a fire starter, as well as air accidents, since they can go up to 15.000 feet altitude. The greatest danger posed by balloons is the highly inflammable materials used to make them, such as fibers, paraffin and kerosene. Because they are taken by wind you never know where the balloon will land and how far it can spread, put people, homes and the woods at risk of fire.

With the serious incident at Morro dos Cabritos, a campaign against balloon launching started on twitter, including to criticize the recent phenomenon of the trending topic CALA BOCA GALVAO:

@adribittencourt #soltarbalaoecrime Vamos bombar essa campanha! Muito mais importante q a Cala a boca Galvao!

@adribittencourt #soltarbalaoecrime (launch ballons is a crime) Let’s bomb this campaign out! More important than Cala a boca Galvao!

@claudiamello RT @guisan: Vamos fazer o seguinte? Ao invés de incentivar o “Cala boca Galvão”, twittem “NÃO SOLTEM BALÃO”. #campanha

@claudiamello RT @guisan: Let’s do the following. Rather than incentivate “Cala boca Galvão”, twitt “NÃO SOLTEM BALÃO” (“DON’T LET THE BALLOON LOOSE”). #campanha (campaign)

As quickly as the event, the campaign was launched via hashtag #soltarbalaoecrime (loosing balloons is a crime), spread through social media:

@gematv RT @brunoastuto: e acabaram de criar o twitter#soltarbalaoecrime, que já está me seguindo @naosoltebaloes

@gematv RT @brunoastuto: and twitter#soltarbalaoecrime has been launched and it’s already following me @naosoltebaloes

@DiogoFenSo Meu Deus, o Rio tá caótico… o morro tá parecendo o Eyjafjallajokull #soltarbalãoécrime

@DiogoFenSo My god, Rio is chaos… the Hill looks more like the Eyjafjallajokull #soltarbalãoécrime

@fe_crf #soltarbalãoécrime precisa falar mais alguma coisa?

@fe_crf #soltarbalãoécrime needs to say anything else?

Launching balloons is an environmental crime according to the law (Lei nº 9.605/98) that says “To manufacture, sell, transport or loose balloons, because of the risk of fire in forests and urban áreas, subjecting the law breaker to prison and fines. Penalty – 1 to 3 year detention, fine or the two punishments.”

Photo available at @cronai’s twittpics

In the beginning of july, the environmental police of São Paulo state, started a campaign against launching balloons called “Soltar Balões não é Legal! É Crime Ambiental” [Launching Balloons is not legal! It is an environmental crime, pt], which extends into August. The proposal is to intensify the inspection and conduct workshops in public and private schools about the danger of this practice. Disque Denúncia [Dial Complaint, pt] also started a Dial Balloon program, so that people can denounce by phone anyone continuing this illegal practice. Nevertheless, others are calling for the defense of this long tradition claiming the motto “Balão é Eterno, Proibir é crime, Regulamentar é Preciso” [Balloons are Eternal, To Ban is a crime, Regulation is Needed, pt].

No information was found on the Internet about the same campaign in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which is hoped to be nothing but a web failure. Until the closing of this article, 14 hours after the beginning of the fire, the firemen were still fighting the fire, even though it was said to be “under control”.

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