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New Orleans residents face years in temporary homes

News

DEBRIS CLEARANCE and insurance wrangles will keep hurricane hit New Orleans residents in temporary accommodation for years, a senior engineer working for the US government warned last month.

Clearing debris will take more than a year, while claiming insurance money and finding contractors will add to this, said US consultant Earth Tech federal business manager Brian Corb.

He spent seven months in Florida last year leading a team involved in clear up operations after four hurricanes hit in three months.

In all, 150,000 homes suffered damage in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Earth Tech, in joint venture with DMJM Harris, is one of three prime contractors retained on an on-call basis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

It has sent 1,200 engineers to the disaster area.

Corb was due to arrive in the Louisiana city of Baton Rouge on 21 September to aid FEMA's debris clearance operation.

'Typically we like to have debris clearance concluded in two months, but a disaster of this magnitude will take much, much longer, ' said Corb.

'Florida took six to eight months to clear and this is four to five orders of magnitude greater than that, ' he said.

Clearing all the debris is a massive task and estimates for the amount of debris in Louisiana are not yet complete.

FEMA eld assessment teams have estimated the amount of debris left in the neighbouring state of Mississippi at 12Mm 3. 'That is enough debris to fill a thousand football fields 3m deep, ' said FEMA public assistance (infrastructure) officer Dennis Colton.

And reconstruction after debris clearance will be slow, Corb warned.

'It is then up to the individual home owner to do the rebuilding. In Florida this was not easy, and it will be no different here, ' said Corb.

'It is simple economics of supply and demand. A lot of companies will try to move people and resources in as best as possible but I saw contractors in Florida demanding three times the usual price, ' he said.

To keep costs down the Bush administration said it might reduce tariffs on items like European steel, Canadian timber and Mexican cement.

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