Damages to Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian estimated at US$3.4B

Damages to Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian estimated at US$3.4B
Associated Press / Ramon Espinosa

A new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has estimated the total cost of the impacts and effects of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas at US$3.4 billion, “with hundreds dead or missing and impacts on the economy that will last for years.”

The Washington, D.C.-based financial institution said on Friday that the estimate comes out to over a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or the equivalent of the US losing the combined economic outputs of California, Texas and Florida.

“The magnitude of the losses requires a new development approach to achieve climate and disaster resilience in areas that range from location of settlements to redesigning infrastructure and strengthening environmental protection,” says the report, “Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.”

The IDB said that the number of confirmed deaths caused by Hurricane Dorian is 67, with 282 persons still missing as of Oct. 18, 2019.

An additional 29,472 persons were affected by the hurricane by damages to their homes and assets, the IDB said.

It noted that, between Sept. 1 and 3, Hurricane Dorian struck Grand Bahama and Abaco with “punishing winds and storm surges,” with the island of New Providence also suffering some impacts.

“Inadequate construction and infrastructure located in vulnerable areas exacerbated the storm’s impacts,” the IDB said.

Daniela Carrera-Marquis, IDB representative, said: “It is important that those directly affected by the disaster feel the presence and solidarity of the government throughout the difficult process ahead.

“Reconstruction efforts will last many years, and will require a well-coordinated participation of public and private sectors, civil society and the international community,” she said.

The IDB said the government of the Bahamas asked it to assess the impacts of Hurricane Dorian.

As part of a long-standing partnership, the IDB said it teamed up with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) for technical assistance with the valuation.

The taskforce was complemented by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the IDB said.

“Hurricane Dorian left a trail of destruction to houses, essential infrastructure and entire ecosystems that will require major investments,” said Omar Bello, Coordinator for the Sustainable Development & Disaster Unit at ECLAC and a lead author of the report.

“The economy and livelihoods will be impacted for years to come from the temporary absence of damaged assets, especially those of tourism and fisheries,” he added.

The IDB said the Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) team of external experts, ECLAC, PAHO and IDB staff started in early October “the complex task of collecting relevant baseline and post-disaster data to assess the effects and impacts of the disaster.”

The results are divided into damage, losses and additional costs, the IDB said, stating that damage is a monetary estimation of the value of the physical assets partially or totally destroyed in each sector.

Losses are a monetary estimation goods that go unproduced and services that go unprovided during a period running from the time the disaster occurs until full recovery and reconstruction, said the IDB, with additional costs being outlays required to produce goods and provide services that represent additional spending by the public and private sectors.

The IDB said the US$3.4 billion impact was divided as 72 percent in damage, 21 percent in losses and 7 percent in additional costs, with the private sector absorbing almost 90 percent of total losses.

Abaco suffered 87 percent of the losses and 76 per cent of the damage, the IDB said.

It added that the housing sector suffered the highest damage, while tourism sector bore most of the losses.

The IDB said the Bahamian economy is expected to grow 0.9 percent post-disaster.

It said the impact of Hurricane Dorian is percentage point of GDP, resulting in a decrease in salaries of US$51.3 million and of capital income of US$60.9 million.

The IDB said damage assessment reports have been used to assist governments in better allocating limited resources, and to sensitize the international community on the impact of extreme climatic events, the high costs of reconstruction and to mobilize support.

“This report may serve as a basis to put together a plan that makes the best use of scarce financial, technical and institutional resources,” it said.

As a long-term prospect for the Bahamas, the report says “achieving disaster and climate change resilience will require rethinking development strategies, the location of settlements, redesigning infrastructure, securing better data and information management, and strengthening environmental protection as a first protection barrier against natural hazards.”