Brazil to create disaster alert system: science minister

16:35, January 21, 2011      

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Brazil will put in place a national disaster-prevention and early-warning system before next rainy season, the country's top science official said on Thursday.

The early-warning system being developed was designed to protect lives from major natural disasters, said Minister of Science and Technology Aloizio Mercadante.

"The system we want to implement may not put an end to disasters, but at least deaths will decrease. Nothing is more valuable than lives," he told state radio reporters.

Following the worst natural disaster ever recorded in Brazil's history that killed more than 750 people in mountain towns north of Rio de Janeiro, the government Monday announced the creation of a national system to prevent and alert natural disasters.

According to Mercadante, the system will be composed of 15 radars and a recently purchased supercomputer to help forecast heavy rainfall and other extreme weather conditions, giving authorities enough time to evacuate people from high-risk areas.

The most critical areas will be given priority to install the alert system which is expected to be fully operational in four years, given the time to conduct a geological survey, he added.

"A few cities have already made a systematic geological survey and we have to identify risky areas first, which are estimated at 500 across the country," Mercadante said.

He said strengthened weather forecast ability, combined with geological survey, will allow the alert system to effectively issue evacuation warnings to those dangerous areas.

"Then we will have another measure, that is training people on disaster prevention, because we do not have such culture of prevention in Brazil like other countries that have to deal with earthquakes and hurricanes," he said.

"However, as a result of climate change, droughts and floods tend to be more frequent and more severe around the world. These phenomena have become frequent in Brazil," he added.

According to the minister, the fact that these events are quite rare in Brazil partly explains why previous governments have done little in implementing alert systems or conducting geological surveys.

Besides these measures listed, governments at all levels also need to keep an eye on buildings established in areas which are vulnerable to floods and landslides, the minister said.

In Brazil, 58 percent of natural disasters are related to floods and 11 percent to landslides, he said.

Meanwhile, a partnership is being negotiated with the Brazilian Air Force to use their radars for monitoring air traffic, which will also help forecast detailed weather conditions.

Source: Xinhua

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