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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 13:59 GMT
Research focus on Twin Tower survivors
World Trade Center was struck on 11 September
Survivors of the World Trade Center attack are to be interviewed
Researchers from the University of Ulster will be among a team of UK scientists to interview survivors of the 2001 terrorist attack on New York.

Two thousand people who escaped from the city's World Trade Center after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers will be surveyed by the team.

The information gathered from the survivors will be used to influence the way architects and engineers design multi-storey buildings in the future.

The research is being conducted along with academics from the University of Greenwich and the University of Liverpool.

The team of six, who has already analysed written accounts of 250 survivors of the attacks, will travel to New York in January to begin the interviews.

The three-year project, which started last year, is costing 1.5m.

Jim Shields, professor of Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Ulster, said the team has spent the past year preparing and arranging access to the people who had survived the attack.

"There has been concern for a number of years about safety escapes from high-rise buildings and 9/11 focussed great attention on that," he told the BBC news website.

"After having established all the contacts, it was a process of contacting and talking to the survivors to find out their information and experiences."

An estimated 2,700 people were killed when the two planes crashed were into the buildings.

Design changes

The researchers have already conducted some interviews with some of the survivors.

Professor Shields said that so far their research had shown a number of changes could be have been made to the Twin Towers which would have helped people trying to escape.

He said one problem which hindered the evacuation was the fact that staircases in the buildings were clustered together in a "central core design" and were constructed of plasterboard.

This meant that, when the planes struck, the staircases collapsed and people were trapped on the floors above.

He said changes, such as constructing wider staircases from concrete and using alternative escape routes like skybridges, would have made it easier for people to get out of the building.

He also said that firefighters sent to rescue those trapped inside had to use the same staircases as the office workers trying to escape.

The fact the emergency services had no alternative point of entry hampered both their rescue operation and the evacuation of those inside the building, he said.

"It is a fascinating project and we hope the outcome will shape the creation of safer environments for everyone," he said.

The findings of the research and the experiences of those interviewed will be published in 2007.

NY to draw lessons from attacks
24 Jun 02 |  Americas
World Trade Center puzzle lingers
07 Mar 02 |  Science/Nature
How the World Trade Center fell
13 Sep 01 |  Americas


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