Scientists assess flooding and damage that cyclone Nargis inflicted upon Myanmar

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Washington, July 18 (ANI): A team of scientists has assessed flooding and damage that cyclone Nargis inflicted upon Myanmar in 2008.

Tropical cyclone Nargis made landfall in the Asian nation of Myanmar on May 2, 2008, causing the worst natural disaster in the country's recorded history - with a death toll that may have exceeded 138,000.

Now, a study found that the cyclone created a storm surge as much as five meters high - topped by two-meter storm waves - that together inundated areas as much as 50 kilometers inland.

Fatality rates reached 80 percent in the hardest-hit villages, and an estimated 2.5 million people in the area lived in flood-prone homes less than 10 feet above sea level.

"The aim of our project was to document the extent of the flooding and associated damage in the delta," explained Hermann M. Fritz, an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Field surveys in the immediate aftermath of major disasters focus on perishable data, which would otherwise be lost forever - such as infrastructure damage prior to repair and reconstruction," he said.

In the flood zone, for instance, the researchers searched for evidence of water marks on buildings, scars on trees and rafted debris as indicators of the maximum water height.

"Nargis washed away entire settlements, often without leaving a single structure standing, which forced us to focus on evidence left on large trees," said Fritz.

The survey team documented soil erosion of as much as one meter vertically and more than 100 meters horizontally.

Cyclone Nargis also scoured several drinking water wells, leaving them in the beach surf zone - and depriving survivors of safe water supplies.

While the storm surge and waves weren't unusually high, the impact may have been worsened by the lack of nearby high ground for evacuation and loss of coastal mangrove forests that could have slowed the storm waves, according to Fritz.

Structures in the area were not built to survive cyclones, and there was no evacuation plan for the area - where people had no previous experience with such storms.

"Those finding point to recommendations, including implementation of a cyclone education program, development of flood and vulnerability maps, construction of cyclone-safe buildings to serve as shelters, implementation of an improved warning system, and planning for evacuation," Fritz said.

Partial reconstruction of the mangroves that had been removed for agriculture and fuel could also help protect the coastline. (ANI)

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