RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil is building 8,000 new, free homes for survivors of the deadly mudslides that ripped away mountainsides near Rio de Janeiro, President Dilma Rousseff announced Thursday.
The president said the housing initiative is a partnership between private companies, the federal government and Rio de Janeiro state, where floods and slides killed more than 837 people and left 541 missing.
She said about 20,000 people lost homes and relatives in this month's floods.
"Their pain is insurmountable, and their loss has no price, but this initiative can improve the situation a little," she said at a news conference.
A consortium of 12 construction companies will donate 2,000 of the homes on land made available by the state. The other 6,000 homes will be paid for by state and federal governments, also on land set aside by the state, according to Rousseff and Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral.
The homes will go to those who are in shelters and to families that are now being removed from areas that are at risk of future mudslides, said Cabral.
The federal government is also investing heavily in prevention, mapping out fragile terrain that is prone to flooding and mudslides and clamping down on unauthorized building in risky areas, Rousseff said. It is allocating $60 million for state and local government rebuilding efforts and $6.6 billion for drainage and hillside stabilization projects.
Cabral said more than 100 bridges were damaged or destroyed, as well as 10 highways and many more rural roads, schools and health clinics.
The government-run Agencia Brasil news service said the Brazilian air force announced that it plans to cease emergency-aid helicopter flights on Friday for the mountain communities north of Rio where heavy rains destroyed whole neighborhoods
The helicopters flew about 170 trips a day over 10 days, ferrying food, water, medication and hundreds of people who had been stranded in remote areas.