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Social and Economic Impacts of Hurricanes on the Caribbean

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    Social and Economic Impacts of Hurricanes on the Caribbean Hurricanes are powerful weather systems, which start as disturbances in the atmosphere over tropical oceans. There are many of these disturbances each year, but only a few become hurricanes. Most Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes occur between June and November and have been known to have serious economic and social consequences. Some economic consequences include unemployment, loss of revenue, loss of foreign exchange etc.

    Social consequences consist of disruption of communities, death, ill health and homelessness and trauma. One of the major social consequences of hurricanes is the loss of lives. It is almost inevitable and causes immense grief. During the passage of Hurricane Jeanne in Haiti in 2004, approximately 325 mm of rain fell which led to extensive flooding which drowned an estimated 3,000 people while Ivan in Grenada killed about 39 people in the same year. The disruption of communities has always been a social effect of hurricanes.

    It forces people to evacuate their homes. It causes internal migration where people have to leave their home and go to an emergency shelter. This could cause them great adversity as they would sometimes have to leave their loved ones behind. Trauma is also a social consequence of hurricanes. The power of the storm itself, lost homes and possessions and a devastated country is a powerful emotional shock. Time would be needed to recover emotionally and in some cases counseling for the victims would be needed.

    Hurricanes almost always cause some type of economic damage. One effect which occurs is the loss of foreign exchange and government revenue. In most Caribbean countries tourism is the main industry and therefore brings in a considerable amount of foreign exchange. If the hotels are destroyed then there would be no place for the tourists to stay when visiting. Hurricanes also cause beach degradation which will lower the quality of the location as a tourist destination.

    In the long term, the perception that hurricanes might strike a particular country every year might drive visitors away. This could lead to a dull period in the tourism industry between June and November. This would result in the loss of valuable foreign exchange. Government revenue would also be adversely affected as taxes related to the tourism industry would decline. Governments also have to deal with hurricane relief and reconstruction. Revenue would be lost in these efforts which could have been

    used for the development of the country. Another economic consequence of hurricanes is the loss of jobs. The destruction of major job providers during a hurricane such as hotels, factories, farms etc. leave many people out of a job. In Nevis for example, during Hurricane Omar water came up from the sea damaging one of the major hotels on the island (The Four Seasons Resort) causing it to close for two years. This left hundreds of people out of job and during the many months of repair caused the unemployment rate to rise.

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