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Irma’s Invoice for the Caribbean

From Antigua Observer

A disaster risk expert estimates US $12.75 billion as the final tab on the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean.

James Daniel, a disaster risk analyst with the Center of Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology(CEDIM), explained that Irma was a relatively expensive disaster to the Caribbean region, causing significant losses in private and public assets.

“This is the highest [cost] ever for the Caribbean when you adjust for inflation,” James said. Clarifying, he said that there have been other very significant disasters in the 1900s if one were measuring absolute damage. But, he explained, the cost of assets is much more expensive in the 21st century, resulting in a record-breaking price tag. To date, the costliest disasters in the Caribbean were hurricanes Ike in 2008 and Hugo in 1989, each costing approximately US $10 billion in damage.

Before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cuba, the CEDIM released a detailed analysis revealing losses upward of 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for Sint-Maarten and Saint Martin, St. Bart’s and the British Virgin Islands. According to the report, approximately 50-60 percent of GDP across the Caribbean is derived from tourism. This means that the total damage costs do not include the loss of tourism revenue as a result of the storm.

Daniel suggested that regardless of the source of the funds, it should be used to build disaster-sensitive infrastructure and that the equality of rebuilt infrastructure must be enforced.

In February 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency signed a Letter of Agreement, which formalized the terms of a US $800,000 grant to support the Regional Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean Project. The grant has been financing the development of a regional disaster risk management strategy for sustainable tourism, including the formulation of standards for vulnerability assessments and risk mapping applied to the tourism sector.

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