Guaruja: Violent rain has killed scores of people and forced thousands from their homes this year in Brazil's most populous states, a disaster experts blame on climate upheaval but also rampant urbanization.
Flash floods, landslides and other havoc wrought by torrential rain have killed at least 29 people in recent days in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and another 25 are missing.
The same scenes of destruction have played out in all three southeastern states, together home to more than 83 million people.
The poor neighborhoods have been wiped out by tidal waves of brown mud where houses and cars swept away by flash floods. The havoc made residents evacuate by boat and helicopter as their streets turn to gushing rivers.
More than three million people live in high-risk zones in Brazil's southeast, which has been hit by record rain this year.
Is climate change to blame? Experts say more studies are needed to be sure.
But there is no doubt the region is experiencing “an increase in extreme weather events,” said Andrea Ramos of the National Meteorological Institute.
This year, the rainy season in southeastern Brazil has been marked by extremes very dry in the first half of the summer, then very wet from mid-January on. said Marcelo Seluchi of the Natural Disaster Monitoring and Alert Center (Cemaden)
Brazil's biggest cities have seen decades of nearly unchecked growth, as poor migrants arrive and settle wherever they can, often building unstable shanty towns on hillsides or the extreme city outskirts.
Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a far-right evangelical Christian bishop, caused outrage amid the floods when he blamed residents for the destruction.
“People like to live close (to flood-prone rivers and gulleys) because they spend less on sewage pipes for their pee and poop,” he said.
"Unaffordable housing costs have forced the urban poor into areas unfit for settlements, planning housing for vulnerable populations near urban services is one of the best ways to deal with this challenge. Brazil still has a long way to go.”
Henrique Evers, Urban development expert