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New Orleans

The question

Clear up and damage assessments are continuing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. How should engineers rebuild and plan the city to ensure the next major hurricane does not destroy it again?

In countries susceptible to earthquakes buildings are designed to cope with the resultant forces. In much the same way, if New Orleans is to be reconstructed in its current location, which is below sea and river level, infrastructure must be designed to cope with high winds and water inundation.

This, coupled with effective early warning and evacuation procedures, is probably the only way forward for a city in an arguably unsustainable location.

James McLeod, 33, senior engineer, Dumfries The city has no hope in the face of rising sea levels, and should be built elsewhere. Who would want to live or work there- This could be America's wake up call, caused in part by their defiant rejection of environmental issues.

John C Sreeves, 47, senior bridge engineer, Swindon Having been to that city, and partaken of a number of its delights, I must stress that New Orleans is more than some picturesque streets and great restaurants. It is also a large industrial base, a major port, and home to around 1M people. Yes, it may not be the most logical place to have such a city, but such is the human, capital and cultural investment there that the necessary dyke-strengthening work and upgrade of pumping stations must take place. More importantly, the US federal government must take seriously the reality of global warming, and must also stop the sale/lease of shoreline-protecting wetlands to developers and oil companies.

Luc Koefman, 34, windfarm engineer, France The main problem seems to have arisen from the fact that the city is below river and sea water levels. It would seem foolish in the extreme to rebuild and repopulate a city in this circumstance, especially given the increasing energy cost which will be required to keep it dry. It should either be abandoned and perhaps rebuilt on higher ground, - if anywhere suitable exists - or the area should be filled to a high enough level and the city rebuilt on top.

Paul Reading, consultant, Northampton It occurs to me, at least as part of a brainstorming exercise, that if New Orleans does not want continual confrontations with the waves it might consider going with the flow and rebuild a waterbased city of unique culture to rival Venice.

Jon Balley, 54, water engineer, Bucks As highlighted in the pages of this magazine last week, they should adopt Dutch building standards. To design critical flood defences for a one in three hundred year event was madness.

Kenneth Brown, assistant engineer, Linlithglow I doubt that it will be possible to build a hurricane proof city, therefore I would hope that future plans would include measures to minimise risk and mitigate the effects of the storm. Existing flood defences need to be re-evaluated and reinforced. I would also suggest that any new housing is raised, with the living areas constructed above the car parking. Bricks and mortar might be a preferable form of construction to timber, that is if US government funds permit.

Robert Pike, 43, project manager, Exeter

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