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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Resorts and Slums Follow Oil Wealth

MACAE, Brazil -- Jose Costa moved to Brazil's oil boomtown of Macae two years ago hoping to find a job on a sparkling offshore rig but settled instead for work as a landlocked janitor with a shack to call home.

Just a stone's throw away from new plush beach hotels and expensive glass-and-concrete apartment blocks -- the signs of the new oil wealth -- teeming shantytowns spread out on the outskirts, representing the dark side of Brazil's oil boom.

"Thousands of people come here like me, just hopes and no money. Renting a flat is not an option, it's more expensive than in Rio de Janeiro," said Costa, 42, who is from Ceara state in the poor northeast. He brought his wife with him to Macae, some 180 kilometers northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

From Dubai in the Middle East to Maracaibo in Venezuela, oil industry booms have brought luxury downtown, while the numbers of indigent mushroom in worker camps and slums in the suburbs.

"We know we are different, but we've been looking at Aberdeen in Scotland, how the city had been planned, how it worked out well and how it is a technology exports center now, when the oil is ending there. It could be a model for us," said municipal trade and industry secretary, Alexandre Gurgel.

Macae, once a fishing town sandwiched between sandy beaches and verdant mountains, has seen its population double to 220,000 in the last 10 years, making it about the same size as Aberdeen's although just one-tenth of Maracaibo's.

"The periphery expanded in a frightening manner and today we are trying to urbanize these areas, relocate people from illegally taken land plots, legalizing ownership of other plots," Macae Mayor Riverton Mussi told Reuters.

But tens of thousands of people remain in poor shanties, complaining of a lack of running water and basic sanitation.

"The population suffers without water and transport!" reads a banner on a two-story shack by the road linking the center of Macae to a large, modern exhibition center, where international oil-equipment fairs and congresses are held.

Macae started growing after state-run oil company Petrobras discovered crude off its coast 30 years ago. Foreign oil firms arrived about 10 years ago, bringing about the real boom. They occupy a whole new district of offices and warehouses.

Although crime rates in Macae pale in comparison with violent Rio, homicides have jumped 26 percent in the first four months of the year to 68, official data shows. Street robberies doubled to 207 and total robberies soared 56 percent to 593.

Oilmen overalls are everywhere, worn by people riding bicycles to work and hanging in shop windows. Shops stock heavy-duty gear for oil rigs, competing with neighboring stores selling more prosaic goods like schoolbags or running shoes.

Along the beach, trendy restaurants are packed despite steep prices. "We're full every night, with lots of foreign oil executives around," said Tiago Silva, a 21-year-old waiter, who came to Macae from the mountain town of Nova Friburgo. Silva cooks and eats at home: "Too pricey here, it's the oil boom."

But Macae authorities hope the city's still relatively small size will allow them to curtail the slums' growth and follow a more successful example of a European oil-boom city.