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The impact of the failure of the New Orleans Levee System after Hurricane Katrina took place was significant and long-lasting. Hurricane Katrina was quick to become the most expensive disaster in United States history and one of the worst. It impacted areas from southeast Louisiana to east of New Orleans.
New Orleans was flooded about 80%, this includes water of depth exceeding 3 metres in certain areas of New Orleans. Based off of August 2, 2006, 1118 people were confirmed to be dead with the addition of 135 missing individuals. The amount of damage Hurricane Katrina caused made it challenging to account and keep track of all the lives impacted by the disaster. The city and economy was majorly impacted due to the number of individuals leaving New Orleans (said to be around 400,000 individuals) and never returning.
During this major disaster, levels of water rose and due to this, many unfortunate things occurred. The levee system failed in more than 50 locations. The breached levees and ruined floodwalls, caused water to rise about one foot every 10 minutes. Many individuals were able to escape whether before or after the hurricane. While others, unfortunately drowned in the high levels of water. Individuals left their homes, waiting in the storm, and died while waiting in hopes of receiving food, water and medical care. Deceased bodies after a while, rose to higher grounds, where members of the public were left to cover them up. Many individuals tried to flee to their attics in hopes of escaping rising water levels. These individuals were found days, weeks or even months later with many unfortunately not surviving. Other residents of New Orleans died drowning due to attempting to save the lives of others. Elderly residents were unable able to reach their attics which lead to family members being practically forced to watch their loved ones slowly drown to their death while knowing there’s nothing they could do.. It’s important to note that, elderly residents were the most impacted by this failure.
As a result of the failure, in the immediate aftermath, thousands of individuals were looking for somewhere safe to go. These individuals were forced to walk through floodwaters with various obstacles such as containing mud, trash, and harmful chemicals such as cleaners and solvents. The next major harmful chemical being gasoline which had been leaked from properties and vehicles in the area. All of this does not even take into consideration the ultimate major problem. This is the product of 7 major oil spills which were leaked into the floodwater. There was a jump in gastrointestinal illness, skin infections, and upper-respiratory infections. This is due to the high exposure of levels of E.coli and fecal Coliform bacteria in waters.
The impact of the failure caused deaths in many other ways. It was reported that six of the deaths were the cause of bacterial infection when previous or new wounds (from the result of the storm) were placed into floodwaters. An amount of 5 deaths were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning due to the misuse of gasoline powered generators throughout the time of power outages.
Long term repercussions includes amounts of billion of dollars in property damage that include personal, property and commercial property losses. Another unintended consequence is many of the sites destroyed during this disaster
After more than a year, many of the sites destroyed during this disaster were practically unlivable. This included many homes that were impacted by mold and that needed significant repairs done. Commercial properties such as smaller businesses and restaurants closed due to the fact that the owners could not bear the expenses for the repairs. Also, the owners, because of major loss in residential property, they were unable to find housing for workers.
There are a bunch of causes that can be taken into account. The larger causes of this disaster were due to human factors. One of the main human factors contributing to the failure was not quantifying the risks associated with the New Orleans hurricane protection system before the disaster took place. This resulted in individuals living in New Orleans to not be aware of the possible risk factors in which they were living on a day to day basis. Another important thing to know is that risk quantification could have brought to attention to policy makers and planners that their design is underdesigned such as not ensuring that the protection system is adequate for a much more intense storm.
Secondly outsider peer review was lacking. When designing engineering projects such as the New Orleans Hurricane System, experts in the discipline of engineering at issue are brought in. They conduct outsider peer review. These provide feedback and reassurance on the overall project such as design and the methods used. In New Orleans hurricane protection system, the number of outsider peer reviews lacked, ranging from a few to zero. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) peer reviews are considered to be not the best, this is because the process in selecting peer reviewers for an engineering project is very non-specific and is a cloudy area. The net result of this issue leads to the engineering project of the New Orleans hurricane protection system to be made by decisions that are considered to be questionable. Based on this, the engineers/designers had to base everything off of their experience and their organizations instead of receiving adequate assistance from what is supposed to ‘’senior experts’’.
Thirdly, the amount of funding was inaccurate. The USACE requests funds for their projects, every single year. The federal government provides the majority of the funds to the USACE. While the other costs are fulfilled by local sponsors. This does not mean that whatever amount of funds needed by the USACE gets fulfilled. In fact, in designing the hurricane protection system, the amount of funds received weren’t received in a proper manner and was in no way sufficient. This issue proved to be a major issue because the USACE had to delay implementing the system many times or scale back the project. The issue with this funding was incredibly inaccurate and harmful because with this system, lives of people are in danger. It is evitable that in the levee system failure, cheaper materials were looked upon higher than the safety of individuals.
There are many actions needed to be taken in order to ensure that no other catastrophes occur like this one. One ethical consideration being; letting the public be aware of the possible risks associated with the design while deciding on how much risk is acceptable. It is important for the people living in a city to be aware of the consequences of a design being implemented because at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to also suffer. Correcting mistakes that happened in the system should be the main goal. Professionals need to better investigate levees and floodwalls to ensure that they are safe against failure. To do this, professionals in the industry, must keep up with constantly changing information such as heights of levees, meteorological and oceanographic conditions. Seeing the safety of humans at a higher level than cheap materials is a major gamechanger. Professions in the industry need to place the safety of humans before anything else and not give in to the pressure of cost effective and time saving methods that at the end of the day, can ultimately cause more damage than anything. They must ensure that they meet the requirements needed to implement and start a project.
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