Caribbean braces for economic punch after season’s deadly first hurricane

By Sarah Morland

(Reuters) – Leaders across the Caribbean were still tallying the financial toll wrought by the earliest Atlantic storm on record to intensify to the maximum Category 5 level, after it left a trail of destruction on Jamaica and islands of the eastern Caribbean.

“There is no doubt this disaster will have a major impact on Grenada’s economic situation,” Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told a briefing on Tuesday. “We are talking hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild.”

Grenada’s Carriacou and Petite Martinique islands face “almost complete devastation,” he added, saying people who lost their homes were particularly vulnerable to the elements.

Mitchell emphasized the need to rebuild structures resistant to storms, noting many of the country’s wood houses are not insured as severe weather becomes more frequent due to record sea temperatures, which scientists say is due to fossil fuel-driven climate change.

A team of insurers is set to arrive on Wednesday and the government plans to announce fiscal measures by early next week.

St. Lucia posted early estimates of close to $2 million from damages including buildings, sea moss harvests and banana plantations.

Rainfall and debris hindered assessments in Jamaica, whose agriculture sector initially reported over $6 million in damages.

CARICOM chair Mohammed Ali said many long-term crops were lost and farmers would face issues for years to come in a “heart-breaking” initial assessment for agriculture.

As a result, debt-saddled Caribbean economies may become more reliant on agricultural imports that are subject to inflation they do not control.

Despite producing few emissions, Caribbean nations are among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, which is heating the oceans and increasing the frequency and intensity of severe storms. The region has long-called for more action from top-polluting wealthy nations, such as honoring their climate pledges and considering debt relief, but climate-related financing and loans have funneled billions back to rich countries.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by Aurora Ellis)


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