Brazil to create disaster prevention system

/ Source: The Associated Press

Brazil will create a nationwide disaster-prevention and early-warning system following recent floods and landslides that killed nearly 750 people in mountain towns north of Rio de Janeiro, a government official said Thursday.

The new system, expected to be fully operational in four years, will use 15 radars and a recently purchased supercomputer to help forecast and monitor extreme weather conditions, giving authorities enough time to evacuate people from high-risk areas, Science and Technology Minister Aloizio Mercadante said.

Speaking in an interview with radio reporters that was aired on the government's website, he said officials have not yet calculated how much the system will cost.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said in a statement e-mailed to news media outlets Wednesday night that it is considering funding a project to restructure Brazil's civil-defense system at the federal, state and municipal levels.

The bank also said it has earmarked a $485 million loan to rebuild houses and relocate families living in areas at risk for mudslides and heavy flooding.

Mercadante said he expected the death toll in the flood zones to eventually reach 1,000 and that Brazil has at least 500 high-risk areas where 5 million people are at risk.

Also Thursday, Planning Minister Miriam Belchior told Brazilian news media that the government will invest $6.5 million over the next four years in water drainage and hillside recovery projects across the country.

"We are talking about prevention, about identifying high-risk areas and recovering hillsides so that they do not collapse when it rains," she said.