my thoughts go out to the Katrina victims... it's close to heart, for in Singapore, there were many efforts to coordinate the relief operation in Sumatra. I went to chip in a few times with my classmates, at a neighboring Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in my house, which was going to send supplies over to Sri Lanka to help the victims there.
I remembered the low-cost, tsunami-safe housing strategies that was developed by MIT that was used to help rebuild the communities of Sri Lanka. Perhaps they could come in handy by employing the low-cost strategies to rebuild the stricken communities down there.
Though drinking water is a very pressing problem, another water-related problem is the West Nile virus. Sewage systems would likely be clogged, and efforts should be directed towards clearing out the sewage area. This would help lessen the threat of water-borne diseases, and would also help set the momentum for the rebuilding of the infrastructure there. Even better, to solve the immediate problems of unemployment, and to encourage ownership of their living area, employ the people around there to kickstart the clearing up, especially in the less dangerous areas, before bringing in machinery to clear up the tougher-to-clear debris.
When it comes to prevention, I doubt that in the near future we can overcome nature, but other efforts can be made to prevent the loss of human life. The infrastructure to evacuate people should be expanded perhaps by having more public transport systems mobilized to help evacuate the underprivileged, and increasing emergency escape routes that could double up as regular transport routes during normal use.
It's been good to know that Texas and other states have been opening up their doors to the Katrina victims. However, I think that perhaps more could be done for humanitarian aid to that area. Especially things like clean bottled water - now that's an essential item. Blankets too - to protect against the cold.
It's true that engineering ideas are needed, but perhaps for the short-term, it's better to give a piece of our heart and deliver several quanta of warmth to them. That would bring a ray of hope into their lives.
Best wishes to every survivor. Keep strong, make it out alive, and things will get better - for nothing can get worse than this, can it?