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article imageChoice view over Rio for waterborne beggar

By AFP     Mar 20, 2015 in World

Thousands of people eke out an existence living in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, a giant city racing to overhaul itself ahead of next year's Olympics.

But sometimes, even in a city of six million with a huge gulf between rich and poor, beggars can be choosers -- at least when it comes to ensuring one has a nice view.

Hamilton Cunha Filho, a 30-year-old from the impoverished northeast, arrived years ago but is jobless.

Yet he is not exactly a street-dweller. Instead, he lives on a small raft constructed from assorted trash.

His unusual, plastic-roofed dwelling affords him an unbeatable view of the spectacular Guanabara Bay with the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain behind it.

The Bay will host next year's Olympic yachting action.

As evening falls, Hamilton lights a candle and places it carefully inside a bottle to make the raft visible and ensure passing boats do not ram him.

A quick swim to shore allows him to wash clothes.

With the town hall looking to clean up the city's image as South America's first ever Games loom ever larger, Hamilton found local authorities had knocked down a shoreline dwelling he had constructed from boxes placed on stones.

Hamilton Cunha Filho shows his "floating house" in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro  on Mar...
Hamilton Cunha Filho shows his "floating house" in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, on March 20, 2015
Vanderlei Almeida, AFP

So he decided to move out of reach with his new floating home.

"When time allows I'll make it a little bigger, I'll build a bigger home," he told AFP photographer Vanderlei Almeida, who chanced upon him Friday.

First, though, he pulled out his own camera to snap what he has done so far.

His raft is a cheap alternative to the soaring cost of accommodation in Rio, where roughly a third of the population live in slums known as favelas often lacking proper sanitation and other basic facilities.

Hamilton insists he feels safer in his off-shore environment from thieves and potential muggers than onshore.

Another big plus point, though, is the breathtaking view of the Bay with its mountainous backdrop -- even if the Bay's waters are polluted.

City authorities are racing against time to fulfil a promise to cut contamination by 80 percent before the Games start in August of next year amid expert claims the target cannot be met in time.

More about Brazil, oly, 2016, Environment, Poverty
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