Government Simulation Foresaw 61,290 Deaths In Smaller-Than-Katrina Storm

September 9, 2005-- Posted at 3:45 PM CDT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ FEMA Director Michael Brown says he hopes the experts were wrong.

For the past year, a team has been working on a simulated hurricane strike on New Orleans, and they concluded that a hurricane could cause more than 60-thousand deaths.

Brown says he's praying that won't turn out to be accurate.

He tells The Associated Press his "gut" is the deaths won't reach that dire estimate, but, he says, "We just don't know."

A 412-page report obtained by The Associated Press warned the federal government that a Category Three hurricane could overwhelm New Orleans levees and cause deadly flooding.

The report says federal help "must be provided in a timely manner to save lives," prevent suffering and limit severe damage.

The planners say that means the government needed to put the help in place before it was requested. Federal and state officials started work on the project in July 2004.

The experts finished their first draft of the report last December.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)