In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady River delta of Myanmar (Burma). The loss of life - more than 138,000 people died - was largely due to flooding caused by a 12-15 foot storm surge.
Data collected during a field survey of 150 km of coastline in August 2008, three months after Cyclone Nargis, is being used to develop computer modelling software capable of accurately predicting the extent of future storm surges. Herman Fritz, from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, which is developing the software, said "The aim of our project was to document the extent of flooding and associated damage in the delta. Field surveys in the immediate aftermath of major disasters focus on perishable data, which would otherwise have been lost forever – such as infrastructure damage prior to repair and reconstruction."
It is hoped that work on the software will be completed in October, and that it will be available for use next year, following a period of testing. The computer modelling will enable evacuation plans to be developed, and will help influence education and construction programmes, reducing the loss of life in future cyclones.
The research was supported by the Pyoe Pin Program (part of a DFID Burma humanitarian relief programme), which is also sponsoring the detailed modelling being carried out at Georgia Tech.