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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK
US 'unprepared for catastrophes'
A repaired levee in New Orleans
Some 1,300 people died in Hurricane Katrina last year
Many cities and states in the US are not prepared for a major disaster, a new report has warned.

Washington, a target in the 9/11 attacks, was among the worst-prepared for a catastrophe, the Department of Homeland Security report said.

Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, which were devastated by Hurricane Katrina last year, also scored low.

The best-prepared states include Florida and other coastal states which are hurricane-prone.

The six-month study, conducted in all 50 states, six US territories and 75 of the largest cities, looked at nearly 2,800 emergency operations plans.

National effort

Areas of greatest concern were evacuation plans, resource management and dealing with people with "special needs" such as the elderly, people with disabilities and those who could not speak English.

Fire engines at the Twin Towers in New York after the 9/11 attacks
New York does not meet all disaster response guidelines

Department undersecretary George Foresman said that despite grants of $18bn to prepare for disasters since the 11 September 2001 attacks, "very little of it has gone to planning, training and exercise".

"The current status of plans and planning gives grounds for significant national concern," the report says.

States and cities need to co-ordinate their planning and need a clearly defined command structure, the report said.

It called for federal as well as state government involvement.

"All levels of government across the country need to improve emergency operations plans for catastrophic events such as a major terrorist attack or category five hurricane strike," it said.

Ten states were said to have sufficient plans to respond to disasters: Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

The study was carried out as part of a national review authorised by President George W Bush after Hurricane Katrina last year.

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