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Cyclone Debbie: we can design cities to withstand these natural disasters

Rob Roggema writes in The Conversation (29.3.17) that northern Australia’s coastal cities would suffer much less damage and avoid the huge financial losses if they were better designed to cope with the effects of cyclones and flooding.

‘What happens after Cyclone Debbie is a familiar process. It has been repeated many times in cities around the world. The reason is that our cities are not designed for these types of events.

‘So we know what comes next. Queenslanders affected by Debbie will complain about the damage, the costs and the need for insurers to act now to compensate their losses. The state and federal governments will extensively discuss who is to blame.

‘The shambles will be cleared and life will eventually get back to normal. Billions of dollars will be spent on relocating people and on repairing the damage and public works. A state-level levy may even be necessary to pay for all the extra costs. Two storms, Katrina and Sandy, cost the United States more than US$200 billion between them.

‘Yet we know what cyclones do. They bring, for a relatively short time, huge gusty winds. These are inconvenient but have proven not too damaging. The greatest risk comes from storm surge and rainfall. Both bring a huge amount of water. And all this water has to find a way to get out of our living environment.

‘Despite knowing, approximately, where cyclones tend to occur, we never thought about adjusting our cities to their effects. It would make a huge financial difference if we did.’

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