Holidaymakers watched on in horror as a cliff collapsed on a young family killing both parents, their seven-month-old baby and pet dog while they were at the beach.
The sudden collapse gave the family no time to flee with the woman grabbing the child wrapping her body around it just before they were all buried by the rubble.
Warning signs in the area had been destroyed by the sea, authorities said.
Disaster struck at Pipa Beach, a popular tourist destination in the municipality of Tibau do Sul, in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte.
The tragic incident took place in the early afternoon of 17th November, when a part of the cliffs that back onto the beach collapsed on to the young family who had been sitting underneath.
Witness Igor Caetano, a nautical tour businessman, told local media that the victims were sat close to the cliffs and that the mother was hugging her baby to try to protect him as the debris fell onto them.
He said: “We dug until we found the father, and then we found the mother and the child. The boy was still breathing. By chance, a doctor was passing by at the time. She tried to revive the child, but it wasn’t to be.”
The man has been named as 33-year-old Hugo Mendes Pereira, who was the reception manager at the local Sun Bay Hotel. He was originally from the municipality of Jundiai, in the south-eastern state of Sao Paulo, but he had been living in Pipa for some years.
Pereira had been enjoying a day off at the beach with his wife, 32-year-old Stela Silva de Souza, their seven-month-old son, Sol de Souza Pereira, and their pet dog, which also died in the accident.
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Local residents have often warned tourists about the risk of cliff collapses, as the waves erode the cliff bases when the tide comes in, making them vulnerable to collapse.
Souza’s cousin, fisherman Joao Marinho, told local media: “I was born and bred here and this has always happened, but the sea is increasingly destroying the cliffs. We see tourists enjoying the shade under the cliffs and we ask them to leave because we know of the risk.”
Fabio Pinheiro, the municipality’s communications secretary, informed local media that the couple was alerted to the risk by an official from the local authority shortly before the accident.
According to Francisco Albuquerque Neto, the municipality’s urban services secretary, the local authority had put up a warning sign along the stretch of beach where the incident happened. However, like the cliffs, it had been destroyed by the sea.
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