Rain and damage to the World Heritage sites in Minas Gerais (Brazil)

UNESCO publicly expresses its solidarity with the cities of Ouro Preto and Congonhas, in Minas Gerais state, which have been hit by heavy rains in the region in recent days. As the UN System agency responsible for the mandate on culture, UNESCO deeply regrets the damage caused to these two significant world cultural sites in Brazil inscribed on the World Heritage List: Ouro Preto (1982) and Congonhas (1985).

"The disaster that has occurred in Ouro Preto – the first Brazilian historical city inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List – constitutes a loss for humanity. Preventive and collective actions are needed to protect our common cultural heritage, which is of exceptional value for all in the world. The increasingly frequent natural disasters should alert us to the climate change impacts that are already taking place. They have made us mobilize ourselves in favour of coordinated protection policies, disaster mitigation, and adequate management plans," says the Director and Representative of UNESCO in Brazil, Marlova Noleto. 

In addition to the mountain landslide (Morro da Forca), which collapsed two historic buildings in Ouro Preto – one of them was Solar Baeta Neves, the city’s first neo-colonial building –, UNESCO was also informed about the impact of the rains on the cultural heritage properties in the city of Congonhas. In the chapel of Santa Ceia located near the Basilica of Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, some sacred wooden images carved by the artist Aleijadinho in the colonial period, have been affected by water and humidity. 

UNESCO Brasilia Office has reported the facts to the World Heritage Centre that has monitored the situation of these world heritage cultural sites. It has also informed the Culture and Emergency Division at UNESCO headquarters, in Paris. Besides, the Office has contacted the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – IPHAN) to offer technical support and contribute to the Brazilian government on whatever is necessary. IPHAN is a partner of UNESCO in the implementation of relevant international cooperation projects for protecting cultural heritage.