Damage from Irene could reach US$1 billion

NASSAU, Bahamas: AIR Worldwide, a leader in the catastrophe risk modeling industry, has estimated that insured losses in the Caribbean from Hurricane Irene will be between US$500 million and US$1.1 billion, with the Bahamas accounting for more than 60 per cent of the insured.

AIR’s estimate includes wind and rain-induced flood damage to insured onshore residential, commercial and industrial properties and their contents, automobiles and business interruption losses in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, and other Caribbean territories.

Hurricane Irene exited the Bahamas after weaving a path of more than 500 miles through the entire length of the archipelago.

According to AIR, Bahamas was among the first Caribbean territories to adopt building codes, which are very stringent and highly enforced, and this limited severe structural damage to a certain extent.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd battered the northwestern Bahamas with Category 3/Category 4 winds, causing widespread damage and disruption to several islands. Reported insured losses, trended to 2009 dollars, were approximately US$400 million in the Bahamas. Like Irene, AIR said, Hurricane Floyd was a very large storm, with tropical storm force winds extending some 580 miles across but, unlike Irene, Floyd passed to the east of the islands, meaning that its strongest winds on the right side of the storm remained over water.

“Because Irene tracked west of several islands – including Abaco Island, which contains the third highest insured property value after New Providence and Grand Bahama – it is likely that losses in the Bahamas from Hurricane Irene will be higher than those from Hurricane Floyd,” said Scott Stransky, a scientist at AIR Worldwide.

“Irene’s large size meant that almost all of the Bahamas was subject to strong winds for more than a day – a factor taken into consideration when modeling losses.”

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said relief supplies from the CARICOM regional warehouse in Jamaica were shipped over the weekend to assist hurricane impacted Acklins and Mayaguana Islands in the southeastern Bahamas.

The Turks and Caicos Islands, one of CDEMA’s 18 Participating States, has offered the use of its airport on the island of Providenciales as a forward staging area for transshipment of relief supplies to the islands of the southeastern Bahamas.

Before hitting the Bahamas, Irene passed through Puerto Rico at tropical storm/Category 1 strength, causing extensive flooding and triggering dozens of landslides. Later, the storm passed sufficiently north of the Dominican Republic to keep wind damage minimal, but excessive precipitation caused several rivers to burst their banks, causing severe flooding and sweeping away many poorly-constructed houses.

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