Hurricane disaster survival part 1

| September 21, 2019

Dickson Igwe, Senior political contributor

Belief that the Virgin Islands may escape an annual devastating hurricane such as Irma, Maria, and Dorian, is simple delusion; it is  dangerous complacency.

Now, as the UK convulses in major constitutional crisis, these beautiful British Virgin Islands face their own convulsion, generated by climate change.

Hurricane Dorian passed by two weeks past, and new tropical systems off the coasts of West Africa continue to concern disaster planning officials.

The worst is not over yet for the 2019 season. These Virgin Islands must prepare for a new era: the arrival of annual and increasingly devastating hurricanes driven by a climate change anomaly caused by human impunity, and environmental irresponsibility. 

The equally beautiful Bahamas are a reminder that nature is no respecter of persons. Hurricane Dorian – which passed through those islands- caused hundreds of deaths, and thousands of homes have been totally destroyed by high winds and powerful sea surge, overwhelming low lying areas of the Bahamian archipelago.  Seawater has surged on land, submerging homes, businesses, commercial property, and government facilities and utilities.

Islanders living in the hurricane belt will have to place personal lifestyle and behavioral change, at the top of what is required to minimize the impact of hurricanes, and their exposure to horrific annual storms.

Hurricane Dorian survivor in the Bahamas. Photo courtesy

And make no mistake, life threatening and destructive hurricanes, as of today, are an annual event in the hurricane zone.

That is the new reality.

But what does lifestyle change require? Lifestyle change is a rethink of how islanders living on coastal plains and low lying islands such as Anegada and Anguilla, exist and survive, in a world where climate change and rising seas threatens the very existence of low lying islands and islets.

The first matter that must be faced is economic: how these islands are going to face the crippling costs of rising home, commercial property, and vehicle insurance, without a major increase in personal, corporate, and national debt. Unhealthy debt and high insurance costs are a drag on economic growth as the two factors can cause a decline in consumer demand and consumer confidence. 

The annual cost of recovery from tropical storms and hurricanes can run into the billions of dollars. Yearly, storms will impact the GDP of hurricane prone islands significantly, as commerce and tourism are impacted, and government revenues, used for disaster recovery, instead of social and economic development.

The cost of living in the Virgin Islands is among the highest in the Caribbean. Annual devastating hurricanes will put extra percentage points on the index of inflation. Annual hurricanes will impact the consumer price index for the worse.

To be continued

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Category: African Caribbean, Culture & Society

About the Author (Author Profile)

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.

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