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Is Belize prepared for a Category 5 hurricane?

Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019. 11:49 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Carolyn Trench-Sandiford: Is Belize prepared for a Category 5 Hurricane, considering climate change which brings rising sea levels, increased flooding and more intense and unpredictable storms, all of which is exacerbated by unplanned and unregulated urbanization and development, pre-existing urban development challenges and pre-existing urban vulnerabilities? Considering also that climate change will disproportionately impact the poor and vulnerable populations, that is, the elderly, children, persons living with diverse ability, HIV/AIDS etc.?

A Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, packing 185 miles an hour wind, with wind gusts of 225 miles per hour and storm surge of 20 feet, wreaked havoc on the Bahamas. At least 7 persons lost their lives and as many as 13,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, according to the Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.

On October 31st, 1961, a Category 5 Hurricane Hattie struck Belize, packing 150 miles an hour winds, with wind gusts of 175 miles an hour and a storm surge of 15 feet, killing more than 400 people and leaving thousands homeless. Almost half of Belize City was demolished by the storm. The population of Bahamas is approximately 400,000, almost the same as Belize. It has a land area of 5,382 square miles, including 700 cays, spread out over 90,000 square miles of water. Belize has a land mass of 17,000 square miles including 8,867 square miles of land area (mainland) and approximately 450 islands.

Belize is ranked 12th of 182 countries on the Global Climate Risk Index and in the top 5 percent for losses to climate related disasters for the period 1997-2016, and in the top 12 percent of climate-related disaster fatalities. Belize’s annual average loss from wind-related events and floods for this period averages just under $123 million, or 7 percent of GDP. (Germanwatch.org in IMF: 2018:14).

Belize’s risk to the impacts of natural hazards and climate change is very high, due to its exposure: that is, its long coastline, with approximately 57.9% and 36.2% of its population residing within 15 miles of the coast and in low elevation zones respectively (Mycoo and Donnovan 2015: The Blue Urban Agenda: Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Cities of the Caribbean and Pacific Small island States @ pages 55-63). This risks are multiplied as another 25% of the population resided on river banks, and a large proportion of the country’s major infrastructure, such as pubic buildings, health, commercial and transportation facilities, fossil fuel supply, electricity generation and transmission infrastructure are located on, or near, the coast, which makes them susceptible to sea level rise. (IMF, 2018: Belize Climate Change Policy Assessment @ pos 14,17); its housing inadequacy (CCCCC 2015: A National Climate Strategy and Action Pan to address Climate Change in Belize @ pg15).

Our vulnerability is further increased due to our high levels of poverty, that is, 41% of which 15% is indigent (Country Poverty Assessment Report 2010) and decreasing levels of literacy, increasing levels of crime and violence, and other urban development challenges.

With all the above vulnerabilities and risks, IS BELIZE READY FOR A CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE? is a very important question to ask.

 

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