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Home >> World
UPDATED: 11:25, September 05, 2005
Experts: Models predicted impact of storm disaster
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Virtually everything that has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck was predicted by experts and in computer models, so emergency management specialists wonder why authorities were so unprepared.

"The scenario of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was well anticipated, predicted and drilled around," said Clare Rubin, an emergency management consultant who also teaches at the Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management at George Washington University.

Computer models developed at Louisiana State University and other institutions made detailed projections of what would happen if water flowed over the levees protecting the city or if they failed.

In July 2004, more than 40 federal, state, local and volunteer organizations practiced this very scenario in a five-day simulation code-named "Hurricane Pam," where they had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents.

At the end of the exercise Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared: "We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts.

"Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies," he said.

In light of that, said disaster expert Bill Waugh of Georgia State University, "It's inexplicable how unprepared for the flooding they were." He said a slow decline over several years in funding for emergency management was partly to blame.

In comments on Thursday, President George W. Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

But Louisiana State University engineer Joseph Suhayda and others have warned for years that defences could fail. In 2002, the New Orleans Times Picayune published a five-part series on "The Big One" examining what might happen if they did.

It predicted that 200,000 people or more would be unwilling or unable to heed evacuation orders and thousands would die, that people would be housed in the Superdome, that aid workers would find it difficult to gain access to the city as roads became impassable, as well as many other of the consequences that actually unfolded after Katrina hit this week.

Craig Marks who runs Blue Horizons Consulting, an emergency management training company in North Carolina, said the authorities had mishandled the evacuation, neglecting to help those without transportation to leave the city.

Most of those trapped by the floods in the city of some 500,000 people are the poor who had little chance to leave.

Another big hurricane could hit US

The record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season is only half over and there is a 43 per cent chance another major hurricane with top winds over 177 kph will hit the US coast in September, a noted storm forecaster said on Friday.

"Unfortunately, we are continuing the bad news by predicting above-average activity for September and October," said Colorado State University hurricane researcher William Gray.

For October, the chance of that happening is 15 per cent, Gray and his colleagues said.

Source: China Daily


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