Hurricane Sandy Swept Caribbean First, Causing at Least 70 Deaths
Turtle Island’s indigenous were picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and breathing a sigh of relief on November 3, grateful that despite fairly significant damage, no tribal lives were lost—although with an overall U.S. death toll of 113 as of late Saturday, American Indians were emotionally stricken by the severity of the storm.
Not so lucky was the Caribbean, who got hit a few days before the northeastern U.S. Across Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, 71 people died, according to the Associated Press. The count on October 30 was 54 officially dead, with 21 still missing.
Hardest hit was Haiti, especially in the southern part of the country, which was inundated with 20 inches of rain, according to The Guardian. In Haiti, 200,000 more people are homeless in addition to the 400,000 who are still homeless since the 2010 earthquake, the Russian news site RT.com reported. About 17,800 people moved to 131 temporary shelters during the storm, RT.com said, and a good 70 percent of the crops in southern Haiti were destroyed, as was a significant portion of livestock. The devastation threatened to add to the cholera outbreak that hit 500,000 people after Hurricane Isaac in August, the news site said.
Sandy also destroyed camps of tents in which 370,000 homeless from that earthquake were living, Al Jazeera reported.
“We are facing a major crisis,” said Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, according to RT.com.
Eastern Cuba saw the loss of 15,000 homes, and 200,000 homes on the island as a whole were damaged, the AP said. Jamaica’s $16.5 million in damage destroyed 71 homes and severely damaged 348, AP said, with one person killed when a boulder rolled onto his house. The storm hit Jamaica as a category 1 hurricane and Cuba as a 2. InterPress Service (IPS) news agency reports that people in central Cuba had to be evacuated by helicopter.
The Bahamas saw tragedy too, with two people killed, and a $300 million price tag for repairs, the AP said, quoting a report from a Caribbean association of governments that pools risk, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility. The Dominican Republic also saw two killed, with 30,000 evacuations from flooding, and Puerto Rico got hit with related rain that flooded
Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina declared a state of emergency on October 26, according to Dominican Today, and the government sent shipments of food, mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets to southwestern areas whose land access was cut off, including what the newspaper said were hard-hit communities of Boca Cachón and Jimani, as well as others.
Those celebrating Day of the Dead had to swim among weeds to find the graves of their loved ones so as to leave flowers and offerings, Dominican Today reported on November 3.
MSNBC reported on the storm in photos.
Such devastation was not new to these nations. They have been dealing with the effects of climate change for some time, as the news agency InterPress Service (IPS) noted.
Sea levels have already been rising faster in the northeastern United States than elsewhere, and when Sandy swept through—two times bigger than the average hurricane, according to IPS—it caused havoc, killing more than 100 people in the United States alone.
“All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be,” Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and an extreme-weather expert, told IPS. And it’s not a question of whether climate change caused so-called Superstorm Sandy. What climate change did, he said, was make the storm more destructive.
“This is the new normal,” Trenberth told IPS. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild in some regions—they’ll just be swept away again.”