Tue | Nov 21, 2017

#SOTIC2017 | Recovery will be long … invest in resilience, warns CDEMA in aftermath of hurricanes

Published:Friday | October 13, 2017 | 10:37 AMJanet Silvera
Elizabeth Riley, deputy director, Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency.

 

St George’s, Grenada:

Having suffered crushing blows to gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria, Caribbean countries are being warned to invest in resilience to allow easier recovery after disasters.

“The recovery period is going to be long,” said Elizabeth Riley, deputy director, Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), during a presentation at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC 2017), in Grenada on Thursday morning.

Urging the region to consider all hazards when investing, she noted that planning must be consistent with disaster plans for the subsectors, such as yachting.

Several of the hundreds of islands located in the region were affected by the hurricanes  - Barbuda and Dominica, which were almost wiped out; Dutch St Maarten and French Sint Martin which saw 70 per cent of its hotel inventory destroyed or damaged; Ragged Island in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla which was hit badly, Cuba, St Barths, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which is still under a state of emergency.

The CDEMA official argued that it was possible to build to withstand category-5 hurricanes, and put plans in place to immediately have service restarted after a disaster.

In the case of Dominica, after the hurricane hit, it took persons outside the country at least five days to make contact with their families.

Acknowledging the potential for disruption of the service, Riley said crisis management planning was critical and should be particularly explicit when it comes to the treatment of foreigners.

“With the complete disruption of the normal communication system, some islands had to revert to amateur (ham) satellite radios,” she stated.

Referencing the devastation in Barbuda as well the CDEMA official she said considerations may need to be taken on how far back from the high water line construction can be done.

“Across the board, we have a choice - reinvest in vulnerability or resilience. It is a choice you have to look at,” she told the gathering.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com