Rio's Heatwave Continues and 'Shock and Order' On the Beach

It's official: Rio de Janeiro is the hottest place on the planet. Or at least it was Thursday, when temperatures soared past 104 degrees Fahrenheit amid the worst heat wave to hit the country in 50 years.

It's not just uncomfortable -- it's also proving to be quite deadly. More than 30 elderly people died in the city of Santos, close to Sao Paulo, because of the crippling temperatures.

People struggled to cope with suffocating temperatures and oppressive humidity ahead of the Carnival festivities. For a change it's not just the dancers' skimpy costumes that are making the temperatures soar.

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The heat wave El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, which has prevented clouds from forming and cooling the city. Desperate locals have even taken to camping out on Rio's beaches at night to escape the furnace-like heat indoors.

There's not much that can be done about the heat, but local politicians have found other ways to make the city of Rio a more hospitable place to be, particularly ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

More police officers were placed in the vicinity of shanty towns to discourage drug trafficking, and there are attempts to rid the famous Rio beaches of unlicensed food vendors who ply their wares up and down Ipanema and Copacabana. The program, called "Shock Order," is designed to control some of the vending activity. So far it's proving to be a hit with the locals who say the beaches are cleaner than they've been before.

Politicians believe the measure was needed to regulate some of the food vendors, who trawl the beaches in the heat with cooked prawns, warm pasties and corn on cob -- great for bacteria, not so good for the stomach.

For the locals, the beaches represent the heart and soul of Rio life. It's where friends and family gather at any opportune moment and appreciate the sun, the sea and the glorious sunsets.

Beach Escape

The trade-off to the more sanitary conditions may be that beaches like Ipanema's Posto 9 lose some of the charm from hearing the various cacophony of sounds of the food sellers. But admittedly it could get a little too much on more delicate days with beach-goers surrounded by the noise of one vendor showing "Acai, Acai!" through a megaphone, or the so-called "pineapple terrorist," who would sneak up behind young ladies and scream "PINEAPPLE!!!!" causing much hilarity for onlookers.

But the beaches will still remain Rio's frenetic havens... and where there's a beach, there'll always be a place not too far away to get a beer, a snack, and the perfect view of the sunset.