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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 12:01 GMT
Brazil legal threat over fumbled forecast
rio
Rio: Millions enjoyed festivities despite grim forecast
A Brazil forecaster has been landed in hot water over a wrong prediction.


Making those kind of declarations could have caused a massive panic

Rio prosecutor
Luiz Carlos Austin may end up in court after the cold, driving rains that he predicted for Rio de Janeiro on New Year's Eve never materialised.

Rio's Mayor, Cesar Maya, wants charges brought over the fumbled forecast.

The city's acting chief prosecutor, Alberto Guimaraes Jr, said the TV forecast could have touched off a citywide panic on 31 December.

Devastating downpours have affected several regions of Brazil in the last two weeks - 60 people died in torrential rains over the Christmas holiday in Rio. But the skies were clear over Rio on 31 December.

'False alarm'

Mr Guimaraes said Mr Austin's forecast was irresponsible.

"Making those kind of declarations... could have caused a massive panic in light of the problems we've been having with rain," he said.


The cold front broke up earlier than expected

Luiz Carlos Austin
Mr Austin, of the National Meteorological Institute, would be charged with "sounding a false alarm", which could land him with a six-month jail sentence.

Mr Austin, who has been forecasting weather for 35 years, said: "There was a consensus among meteorologists that there would be problems with a cold front, but that cold front broke up earlier than expected."

As it turned out, millions of people still hit Rio's beaches on New Year's Eve to watch the fireworks and live music shows, promoted by the city.

rain
Torrential rain has caused havoc over the last two weeks
Weather forecasters such as Mr Austin have faced similar threats in the past.

In 1999, tourism chiefs in Donegal, Ireland, threatened to take the Republic's weather forecasters to court for allegedly continually referring to the county's wet weather and denting the tourist trade.

And an Israeli woman reportedly sued a forecaster in 1996 for allegedly causing her to catch flu.

She said she dressed too lightly after hearing his assurances of rising temperatures.

See also:

29 Feb 00 | Americas
Brazil mudslides kill 13
05 Jan 00 | Americas
Brazil floods kill 26
02 Apr 98 | Americas
Rain douses Brazil's Amazon fires
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