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After Storms, 'A Long, Hard Climb Out' Lessons From Jeanne Better-Built Housing Is The Best Hurricane Protection
After Storms, 'A Long, Hard Climb Out'
The Caribbean's multibillion dollar tourism industry will likely take a hit in the coming season, as several destinations rebuild following a series of hurricane strikes.
BY MICHAEL A.W. OTTEY
September 27, 2004
The stream of hurricanes that hit the Caribbean this summer will knock the wind out of several tourism-dependent economies, and it will be months, even years before they fully recover, analysts say.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks many of these vulnerable economies suffered and only recently had begun to bounce back. But now storms have blown progress to bits.
The Cayman Islands and Grenada are still in a daze from the blows dealt by Hurricane Ivan. Jamaica, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were all struck -- to varying degrees -- by Ivan, Frances, Charley or Jeanne.
The full impact of this unusually busy hurricane season on the Caribbean's $20 billion tourist industry won't be fully known for some time, the analysts said, but it's almost certain that the coming winter tourist season will feel a chill.
''Tourism will be hit very hard,'' said Caroline Antsey of the World Bank. ''Missing a season will be devastating. It's really going to set them back enormously.'' The World Bank has established a $10 million contingency fund for hard-hit countries in the eastern Caribbean, Antsey said.
''It's going to be a long, hard climb out,'' said Denis G. Antoine, Grenada's ambassador to the United States. ``We have been set back for many years. It's going to be impossible without help.''
Seventy percent of the dollars pumped into Grenada, for instance, comes from tourism, said Ian DaBreo, president of the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association. Last year, 142,355 visitors flocked to Grenada, a 7.5 percent increase over the previous year. Between January and April Grenada saw a 9.1 percent jump in visitors compared to last year.
ISLANDS SEEK HELP
With a fairly successful campaign to lure more tourists, and construction of a new multimillion dollar dock to accommodate larger cruise ships, Grenada tourism officials had hoped for continued growth. But with much of the country destroyed by Ivan, it will be quite some time before tourists begin to return.
Grenada, which had hoped to inaugurate its new cruise port in November, is now faced with repairing it after Ivan damaged it.
''Grenada has been affected and Grand Cayman has been affected and we're working with international relief agencies to try to return both destinations to normalcy,'' said Alec Sanguinetti, director general of the Caribbean Hotel Association.
While he acknowledged there will be interruptions to the tourist trade in some islands, Sanguinetti stressed that not all of the Caribbean has been adversely impacted by the battery of storms.
''The Caribbean is over 35 islands,'' he said. ``Business is ongoing in the Caribbean.''
While Grenada, the Cayman Islands and most recently Haiti -- where more than 1,000 people died in floods and mud slides -- have been the hardest hit, hurricane damage sustained by Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas has been confined to specific areas, including agricultural regions that are not big tourist draws.
HOTELS UNDER REPAIR
Jamaica's banana fields in the southwest took the brunt of Ivan. While Jamaican ports sustained some damage, its popular north coast beaches and hotels were spared. No such luck for Grand Cayman and Grenada, where hotels have announced they will be closed for months for repairs -- or at least a year in some cases -- while they rebuild.
One of those is the 66-room luxury Spice Island Beach Resort in St. George's, which sustained severe damage, and will stay closed for almost a year.
''We have a tough road ahead as we more extensively evaluate the situation and develop plans to rebuild,'' Royston Hopkin, the chairman and owner, said in an e-mail to past and future guests. ``But I am fortunate to have a dedicated team behind me, and we will face the challenge together.''
Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.
Lessons From Jeanne Should Not Be Ignored
Ray Quintanilla, Sentinel Columnist
October 3, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The arrival of Tropical Storm Jeanne in Puerto Rico was one of those events that forces you to look critically at your surroundings. Perhaps Floridians did the same thing as hurricanes roared through various parts of the state.
After events like those, you begin to assess the place you live and take stock of what could be done to make life less complicated should one of these storms blow through again.
Here's my top 10 list of what Puerto Rico can do to prepare:
Pick up litter. Want floods to flow down drains? Then stop throwing litter onto the streets. Most drains along our major streets and highways were flooded because drains were crammed with beer bottles, fast-food wrappers, cans and plastic shopping bags.
Police should stop driving around with their lights flashing, unless it's a real emergency. You may not know this, but police here constantly patrol with their red and blue lights flashing. As a result, no one moves out of the way for them anymore. So, if there's a real emergency, they get stuck in traffic like everyone else. Same goes for ambulance drivers.
Do something about the thousands of unmarked streets. Even in war-torn Iraq, the government maintains street signs and posts addresses. Outside Old San Juan, one might not see a street sign for miles.
Arrest motorcyclists who ride on the striped line. It's bad enough that they do it when it's sunny out. But when you are trying to get home to take cover, and motorcycles are maneuvering around you on the expressway, it makes things unbelievably tense.
Cut down weak trees. Palm trees are pretty, but when they fall into the streets, they're not so cute. Especially the ones that are prone to fall over because they haven't been healthy for some time.
Take care of your animals. It's sad, but some people do not bring in their pets during violent storms. There were dozens of dead dogs, cats, chickens -- even cows -- floating in high waters.
Advise the homeless to take cover early. Once Jeanne arrived, areas where the homeless congregate looked more like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Homelessness is a big problem in places such as Old San Juan, and the homeless shouldn't have to run around looking for shelter in high winds and driving rain.
If the commonwealth is going to offer shelter, then do it right. Four days after Jeanne hit, the mayor of San Juan said 16 shelters with occupants had no water, toilet paper or beds.
Don't use corrugated metal on your home. It's going to blow off.
Supervise your children closely and make sure they are taken care of before, during and after the storm. But we really shouldn't have to tell people that, should we?
Better-Built Housing Is The Best Hurricane Protection
October 3, 2004
I'm originally from Puerto Rico. There, the majority of the houses in metropolitan areas and some houses out in the country are made of concrete reinforced with steel bars and blocks. Even the roofs are made that way.
Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean zone where there are earthquakes, and that is the main reason for this type of construction. As a fringe benefit, we can go through hurricanes without much damage to our houses. The major damages are to aluminum and wood structures.
The original price of the houses, condominiums and buildings is higher than the construction that we have here in Miami, but it is worth the extra expense. In Florida you can build a million-dollar house with cement, block and other high-quality materials, but if your roof is made out of wood and topped with tiles or shingles, it is not going to withstand a hurricane, whatever the category. Storm shutters can protect the windows. But if only one small corner of the roof flies away, the rest of the property is in jeopardy. I am amazed that we build this way in Florida.
Equally bad, and in some cases worse, is the construction in Tornado Alley states. Every year, millions of dollars and lives are lost because houses are built out of wood. For protection, people just rely on storm shelters. Government officials should be thinking of protecting people and their property and modifying the way we build our homes.
I am paying close to $2,500 a year in homeowners insurance. After this season, I'm sure the cost will go up. This is unfair and unethical for the middle class. If this and other letters could be sent to our government officials, maybe they can start changing the building standards in Florida and eventually other parts of the United States.
EFRAIN MERCADO, Miami