Landslides and floods that hit southeastern Brazil have killed at least 54 people, according to the latest official death toll released by authorities on Friday, the sixth day of search and rescue operations, while the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis, said he was praying for the victims.

“I send you my prayers, God bless you,” the pontiff said in Spanish in a video uploaded to social media sites by Vatican News, the official news agency of the Roman Catholic church.

More than 680mm of rain fell in 24 hours at the end of last week in San Sebastião, a seaside resort 200km from Sao Paulo, in other words twice the monthly average.

“So far we have confirmed 54 deaths,” reported the services of the governor of the state of São Paulo, specifying that “16 women, 15 men and 15 children” have been identified so far.

The previous official count, which was released on Thursday night, was 50 dead.

Brazilian authorities estimate that around 30 people are still missing and searches are ongoing in the hardest-hit districts.

Almost 4,000 people were displaced.

Experts attribute the destruction, the abundance of this nature that the largest state in Latin America has experienced in recent years, to the consequences of climate change and uncontrolled urbanization.

9.5 million Brazilians live in areas exposed to the risk of landslides or flooding, many of them in favelas — slums — that lack basic infrastructure such as drainage, the country’s National Disaster Warning and Monitoring Center (Centro Nacional de Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters, CEMADEN).