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Infrastructure priorities in the wake of Hurricane Irma

hurricane irma on sint maarten

Buildings and infrastructure have been destroyed as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the Atlantic swept across the Caribbean and this morning is hitting the US state of Florida.

The cost of damage caused by Hurricane Irma reached $10BN (£7.58) by Friday, according to estimated figures published by the Centre for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. That figure was before it had hit Florida, where it is today pushing up the state’s coast.

The BBC reports in Florida there have been three storm related deaths. Some 3.4M homes have lost power supplies, and there there is flooding in Miami.

In preparation for the storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from Moore Haven Lock and Dam, located on the west side of Lake Okeechobee.

Caribbean islands are now starting to assess how they recover from Irma’s trail of destruction.

At least 23 people died as the category five storm battered the Caribbean and 90% of buildings were flattened on the island of Barbuda, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, where 50 per cent of the population of 1000 are now homeless.

The extent of the damage to the infrastructure is not yet known as assessments are carried out, and further storms are expected to follow in Hurricane Irma’s path in the following days. However rebuilding infrastructure will be critical to getting communities the help they need.

Speaking about the rebuilding of infrastructure head of Humanitarian at CARE International, who are active in Haiti and Cuba, Tom Newby said: “If you take St Martin for example, where CARE is not present, the island relies entirely on the airport and because Hurricane Irma did so much damage the very first thing that had to be done was getting the airport back into operation.

“So the same kind of thinking will apply in Haiti. If there are any bridges or roads which provide access to people in need have been cut you have to have an immediate way of either temporary infrastructure being put in or repairing that very quickly.

“If it’s not something that is critical to enable you to do everything else then the infrastructure is secondary to the immediate lifesaving support.

“The longer term repairs and reconstruction of the infrastructure would be secondary, but you need to start thinking about it in the assessments and start noting what damage there is.”

The UK has sent emergency support to help those affected by the storm, including RFA Mounts Bay with 40 Royal Marines and Army Engineers on board.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday: ”No one can fail to be affected by the absolute desperate plight of people in the Caribbean who have been hit by Hurricane Irma. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected, particularly with the British nationals in our Overseas Territories of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

”This has been devastating. It’s the most powerful storm to hit the Atlantic, it’s brought devastation in its wake. It’s destroyed buildings and infrastructure, but it’s had such an impact on people’s lives because people have seen their livelihoods completely destroyed, and of course some people are missing, and some will have lost loved ones.

”We have taken action, we have moved swiftly. We have people on the ground, £32 million has been released. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay is in position, providing assistance from Royal Marines and Army Engineers and a military task group is on its way on HMS Ocean with several hundred UK troops. Of course we will continue to look at what is needed, and we will provide what is necessary.

”We must not forget that there is a further storm on the way, and that the Turks and Caicos Islands still lie in the path of Hurricane Irma. But that won’t stop us from providing the assistance that is needed, and doing everything we can to help.”

CARE International has set up a Hurricane Irma Emergency Appeal. To donate to the fund click here.

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