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Engineers call for global think tank on extreme weather events

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HURRICANE KATRINA has highlighted the need to boost global research funding into the effects of natural disasters, senior engineers have said.

Their comments came as the scale of the unfolding disaster in New Orleans and surrounding areas following the hurricane became apparent.

New Orleans residents were told to evacuate 24 hours before the storm hit but many chose not to leave and were caught in catastrophic flooding.

Those who evacuated to the city's Superdome stadium also encountered confusion and lawlessness and were cut off from vital supplies for several days.

The death toll from the hurricane had passed 700 as NCEI went to press and more than 1M people have been displaced.

Unquestionably we need to learn how to better manage extreme events, ' said consultant MWH senior principal engineer and fl od defence specialist professor David Balmforth.

'It is pretty clear that we will have to manage more of these in the future and we need to invest more time and resources in researching 'what if' scenarios and modelling.

'It is very easy to be smug and criticise the US in this case, but I very much doubt that any country has really got its act together, ' he said.

Balmforth spoke to NCEI after Hurricane Katrina struck the south coast of the US in the early hours of Monday 29 August.

The category four storm battered the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with heavy rain and winds of over 225km/h devastating the southern United States coastline.

British experts said that more research was needed if other countries were to handle extreme weather events in the future.

'There is not enough understanding of the probability of extreme events and combinations of these such as heavy rainfall combined with storm surges over large areas, ' said professor of earth systems engineering, Jim Hall of Newcastle University 'Research is only just starting to yield results. There is limited understanding of how large scale extreme events impact on communities and the economy.'

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