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Recovery from storms will take long - Riley - Invest in resilience, warns CDEMA after hurricanes

Published:Thursday | October 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Elizabeth Riley, deputy director, CDEMA.

St George's, Grenada:

Having suffered crushing blows to 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.

Thirteen of the hundreds of islands located in the region were affected by the hurricanes, namely, Barbuda and Dominica, which were almost wiped out; Dutch St Maarten and French Saint 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 Five 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 that a crisis management plan was critical and particularly explicit when it came 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 said that consideration may be needed 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.