To the people in the Leeward Islands and the state of Florida, Hurricane Irma will be remembered as one of the deadliest storms. Irma is actually still going strong, however, the storm is now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone in the south-eastern United States. With 40km/h winds, Irma is causing moderate rainfall as it tracks its way to the Tennessee valley.
This is nothing compared to the force Irma carried as it hit the Caribbean islands. It left countries completely devastated, nearly wiped off the map. So far, there have been 40 deaths as a result of Irma, with the toll sure to rise in the coming weeks.
Many island countries are struggling to rebuild and various international organizations and governments are contributing to the need. Virgin Atlantic CEO, Richard Branson, has already started raising money for Irma relief. Branson chose to ride out the storm by hunkering down in a wine cellar in his private home in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Many people in BVI are now homeless, with their houses reduced to complete rubble. As Branson said, short term aid and long-term recovery are important for the Caribbean communities to rebuild. The islands are not like metropolitan cities, but are small communities with less resources and disaster preparedness.
In Puerto Rico, over 1 million residents are slowly regaining power in an effort to recover from Hurricane Irma last weekend. Seventy per cent of the homes have their electricity restored, however, the last 30 per cent have to wait between two weeks and a month. Leading up to the storm, the island’s sole electricity provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, was left in a fragile state and authorities had even warned residents that they could face power outages for up to six months in some parts of the island. Thankfully, due to a change in the storm path this did not happen.
Hurricane Irma did, however, show the fragility of the Puerto Rican economy and the public– sector debt. The island is an unincorporated US territory and the US has offered federal assistance to help rebuild following the destruction caused by Irma. Many Puerto Ricans are now pushing for a rise in privatization and entrepreneurship to help strengthen the economy.
In Florida, there are approximately 15 million residents left without power and many people are left cleaning up the debris in the streets. It was reported that five residents of a South Florida nursing home died after losing power. Irma hit South Florida as a category three storm and immediately battered areas such as Miami and Venice Florida.
The storm featured a rare phenomenon known as a reverse storm surge. This sucked the water from coastal areas, resulting in an eerily desert looking landscape as the winds blew in reverse directions causing flooding in other parts. This affected even the Bahamas and the Key Largo and Tampa areas.
Many celebrities have already started raising relief for Hurricane Irma and Harvey. The Hand in Hand telethon was a star studded event, including performances that helped raise approximately $44 million . In Texas, the estimated loss from hurricane Harvey and Irma is an average $200 billion. As many communities rebuild and raise funds, Hurricane Jose is looming in the southwest Atlantic near the Bahamas and Bermuda. Jose is a category one storm, but is tracking an uncertain and unusual path. The storm may cause effects to the Atlantic Canada region.
Canada has sent $160K of relief for caribbean countries and continues to send disaster teams.