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  • Riot police clear a neighborhood known to locals as Crackland in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil June 11, 2017

    Riot police clear a neighborhood known to locals as Crackland in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil June 11, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2017

Charities are concerned about the rise in hypothermia fatalities as the winter weather takes its toll.

Plummeting temperatures have left many vulnerable people at risk in Brazil's most populous cities.

Both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero have been recording unusually cold temperatures, the lowest either has seen in more than ten years.

At least five people have died of hypothermia in Sao Paulo over the last 48 hours.


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Barometers showed a drop to below freezing in the city on Monday, prompting officials to try to shelter as many homeless as possible overnight.

More than sixteen thousand people in Sao Paulo do not have a home.

One homeless man, Hortencio José dos Santos, told a government agency that their choices are limited, “A person does not have conditions to be in a home or shelter for the night ....so the solution is to face the cold.”

Father Julio Lancellotti, from the Archdiocese of Povo da Rua, blamed the deaths on the city's decision to clear the streets of make-shift homes and drug users.

Sao Paulo's mayor is facing a backlash from some aid workers after hundreds of homeless people and addicts were evicted by security forces in recent weeks.

900 military police officers cleared an area known as Crackland on May 21.

Many then sought shelter in Princess Isabel square, 300 meters away from the other site.

It was bulldozed last Sunday.

The operation aimed to put an end to the widespread local selling of crack -- a cheap, addictive, smokable form of cocaine -- that has flourished in the area for years.

Dozens of people were arrested during the raid.

The city's mayor, Joao Doria, said he did not want to see an "open-air shopping mall for drugs".

He inisted he wanted to move the addicts on and provide them with medical services and housing.

Critics say his policies are pushing the problem to other parts of the city.

Father Lancellotti said the strategy is failing because drugs are still in circulation.


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Rio's homeless people have been grappling with the cold too.

Temperatures fell over the last 2 days to 8.6 degrees Celsius in Alto da Boa Vista.

This was the lowest ever recorded in the city since the start of the Rio Alert System, a government service which began transmitting real-time weather information in 2002.

Last week, the Municipal Office of Social Assistance of Rio de Janeiro said the number of people sleeping on the city's streets has increased more than 150 percent in the last three years.

Authorities estimate there were 14,200 people homeless in Rio in 2016, some aid workers think the real figure could be higher.

The municipal secretary of Social Assistance and Human Rights, Teresa Bergher, acknowledges that the number of shelters is insufficient, but believes the overall situation has improved.

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