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Expert warns Caribbean to heed lessons from Hurricane Maria

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — A senior lecturer at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) says one of the “biggest lessons” from the Hurricane Maria experience in Dominica is that it is important for the Caribbean to now “seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane”.

Dr Richard Clarke of the Department of Civil Engineering, who is here as part of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), it was also necessary for the region to examine the wind speeds of designs for constructing buildings in the Caribbean.

Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica on Monday last week as a Category 5 storm with winds in excess of 180 miles per hour. The storm has been blamed for more than 25 deaths officially, even though the unofficial figure is put as high as 60 and millions of dollars in damages with more than 80 per cent of the housing sector severely damaged.

“The biggest lesson that we have learnt is that it is important for us to seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane, on the level of the wind speed we need to be designing for.

“If we have to go with only historical records, meaning prior to the increase in the effect of global warming then we will be out even if we design to the current wind speeds when the effects of global warming kicks in, we would have under designed the structure.

“So we seriously need to investigate the impact of global warming on the current design wind speeds for the Caribbean.”

Clarke said while this would be among the recommendations he would be submitting to the authorities following his early assessment of the impact of Hurricane Maria on Dominica, it is nonetheless well known to engineers worldwide.

“The issue would be to get the differing engineering organisations to form groups that would try and impact or impress upon government the need for modernising or treating differently the effect of global warming and other natural phenomena on the design process to mitigate the effect of this,” he said.

Clarke told CMC the other recommendation to the authorities is “a traditional one in the sense that we know that it happens and why it happens but it doesn't make sense having a building code and it is sitting down on a shelve.

“If we want to seriously avoid the problems of the impact of the hurricane on people's lives we simply have to enforce the building codes,” Clarke told CMC.

Meanwhile, the authorities began the herculean task of cleaning up the debris caused by the hurricane that has made many roads here impassable restricting access to some of the outlying districts and villages.

Roman Catholic priest Father Branker John in a message said while he is alive and well, “Dominica unfortunately is not.

“It is about five days after Hurricane Maria and we are devastated,” he said, noting that his parish in Grandbay, south of here “is completely cut off, we have no communication, no electricity, no water, no roads.

“My parish church is destroyed, the roof caved in and fell down, my house, the presbytery where I live and do the devotions every day is partially uncovered so I live downstairs in my office.

“It is bad, it is really bad and the rest of the country is ugly. It's mess. So we need your prayers, we need your support, we need patience, but we are going to need a lot of help, physical help, material help, supplies from you, we will communicate with you in short time, how and when you can send this and please I don't always say this, I don't like to talk about money but we are going to need money from you as well”.

The Roman Catholic priest said “in the interim please pray for us…we are in dire straits. Dominica needs all the assistance that it can get from you. Please, please pray for us”.

There was also a mass burial taking place on Saturday at the Public cemetery in the capital and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday urging the international community to come to the aid of not only his battered country, but others such as Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, acknowledged that several burials were taking place for fear of the spread of diseases.

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