mercredi 2 février 2011

It could be worse

If you thought you were going to go insane during the storm of the last two days, think of it this way: you could live in Australia:
Australia's Cyclone Yasi, with winds of up to 300 km (186 miles) per hour, is so powerful it could blow apart even "cyclone proof" houses, engineers said on Wednesday.

Yasi is headed for major towns and cities along the northeast coast. It is believed to be the strongest ever to hit Australia, surpassing Cyclone Tracy which largely destroyed the northern city of Darwin in 1974.

"Once you get to extreme cases, you are in uncharted ground and the test data I have got I would not trust it if I had to live there myself," said Dr Robert Leicester, a researcher with the government's national scientific research body.

Leicester, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has studied the impact of Australia's two previous worst cyclones, Tracy and Cyclone Larry in 2006.

"Of the cyclones up to now since Tracy, you have not really had a direct hit on places with a lot of housing," he said.

Building standards have been tightened significantly since Tracy killed 71 people and destroyed about 70 percent of the northern city of Darwin.

But they may be no match for cyclones the size of Yasi. Standards are already being reviewed because of worries that cyclones are getting stronger and moving further south.

Engineers said that while most modern homes were designed to withstand high wind-speeds, pressures were different during a severe cyclone which could suck walls out and blow roofs off buildings.

Structures in the region built before 2002 were designed to withstand winds of 252 kph and those built since then for winds of 265 kph, according to Professor Mark Bradford, of the University of New South Wales' School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Smaller building are particularly vulnerable. "It doesn't look particularly good, it is quite scary."

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