World

Brazil to create disaster-prevention system

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

The government also will invest $6.7 billion through 2014 in water-drainage and hillside-recovery projects across the country in an effort to prevent future flooding and slides, Planning Minister Miriam Belchior said.

"We will prioritize those places where experts say the problems are most serious," Belchior said, according to a statement issued by the office of President Dilma Rousseff?

Belchior said that $5.9 billion will be used for drainage projects and the rest for the hillside-stabilization projects. Half of the total funding will be made available to municipalities that submit plans for ongoing projects.

Widespread flooding and mudslides hit Brazil every year, costing hundreds of lives.

Last week's slides were among the worst natural disasters Brazil has suffered — and with the death toll climbing daily, it is likely to become the deadliest natural disaster the nation has ever recorded.

A new alert 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, said Science and Technology Minister Aloizio Mercadante.

Speaking in an interview with radio reporters that was aired on the government's website, Mercadante 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.

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Associated Press writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS figure to $6.7 billion instead of $6.5 million)