May 09, 2022
The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of hydrometeorological events, namely Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis.
The report measured the economic, social and environmental impact of those storms, and noted that over the past decade The Bahamas has experienced more intense hurricanes, with all of the four being Category 4 or 5 in strength.
The total damage for each of those four devastating storms amounted to $119.6 million for Hurricane Joaquin, $580.3 million for Hurricane Matthew, $130.8 million by Hurricane Irma and $3.4 billion for Hurricane Dorian.
“Damage and loss assessment is recognized as essential to expedite the post-disaster recovery process and as a basis for subsequent resilient building. Governments often use these assessments to plan and finance recovery efforts,” the synthesis stated.
Broken down by sector, the total impact of those four hurricanes on the housing sector amounted to $1.85 billion; the impact on education was $107.8 million; healthcare $105.6 million; infrastructure like power, telecommunication roads, airports water and sanitation $634.9 million; tourism $1.16 million and the environment, fisheries and agriculture sectors $370.5 million.
“Over time, loss, damages, and additional costs due to the impact of these disasters are increasing. The tourism sector, the primary economic engine of the country, has seen losses of approximately $1.2 billion in the past seven years due to these disasters. Damage to the housing sector for these four events swelled to a staggering $1.9 billion. Hurricane Dorian was the costliest event at $3.4 billion,” the synthesis stated.
“Over time, The Bahamas is experiencing more intense hurricanes. Grand Bahama Island is experiencing consistent impacts from hurricanes traversing through The Bahamas, therefore increasing loss and damages. Hurricane Dorian, however, was the only hazard event in the past decade to result in death and injuries in The Bahamas.”
The DaLA comes ahead of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends November 30.
Weather experts have forecasted another active season, predicting at least 19 named storms and nine hurricanes, four of which will be Category 3 or higher.
The IDB outlined five resilience recommendations which included understanding the risks first and foremost, and then reducing the risks.
Regarding financial and protection measures, the IADB recommended the revisions of utility tariffs to include disaster risk management (DRM) activities, the mandatory insuring of public facilities, including utilities, and a greater investment in catastrophe insurance and catastrophe bonds.
“Risk reduction by strengthening the country’s building codes and related compliance and monitoring mechanisms, settlement relocations across the length and breadth of The Bahamas and the further implementation of green and grey measures. Disaster preparedness through the enhancement of evacuation and shelter procedures, the decentralization of DRM efforts, establishment of donations and volunteer management plans, capacity building initiatives in the space of disaster management, disaster education activities for citizens and vulnerable communities and strengthened early warning systems,” the IDB recommended.
Successive governments have long lamented the impact of climate change on small island developing states such as The Bahamas, which more often than larger carbon dioxide-producing industrial nations feel the severe brunt of climate change induced weather catastrophes.
The Davis administration has said it will seek compensation from larger nations and corporations for their impact on climate change through offering blue carbon credits on international trade markets.
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