San Juan: A tropical storm has unleashed itself on the Caribbean islands of Dominica as it makes his way through the Caribbean. The storm has claimed 27 lives thus far, reported a Dominican media portal.
Dozens more were still missing in the storm “Erika”.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit suggested earlier Friday that the toll was in the range of 20. But the exact numbers haven’t yet been specified.
Dominica’s works and communications minister Ian Pinnar told a radio station that authorities had recovered 14 bodies and were searching for at least 25 people listed as missing.
While a spokesperson for the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, based in Barbados, said as many as 30 people were missing in Dominica.
Most of the 27 fatalities were in the southeastern area of Petite Savanne, according to the report.
The worst natural disaster in Dominica’s recent history was in 1979, when Hurricane David caused 32 deaths.
The devastation caused by powerful storms is a growing threat to both poor and rich nations, propelling Caribbean islands to the top of a global index of countries most severely affected by weather disasters last year, researchers said Tuesday.
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was ranked as the hardest-hit, and the island of Dominica came in third place after both were battered by Hurricane Maria last September, according to an annual climate risk index from Germanwatch, an environmental policy group.
The United States ranked 12th in the 2017 index, with 389 fatalities and nearly $175 billion in losses from extreme weather.
“Recent storms with intensity levels never seen before have had disastrous impacts,” said the index’s lead author, David Eckstein.
Such weather disasters are likely to worsen further in coming years, the U.N. humanitarian agency warned Tuesday, creating significant new humanitarian needs.
Floods, storms and droughts all are expected to strengthen, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 report.
It cited World Bank data predicting 140 million people could be internally displaced by 2050 as a result of global warming.
Among the countries being significantly hit by climate-linked extreme weather is the United States, whose President Donald Trump is one of the most prominent skeptics of man-made climate change, the agency said.
Hurricanes and storms in the United States and Caribbean caused more than $220 billion worth of damage last year, representing nearly two-thirds of global losses caused by natural disasters in 2017, OCHA said.
“Climate events are contributing to greater humanitarian problems than we have seen in the past,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for OCHA. “This is something the world has not yet adapted fully to.”
As hurricanes and tropical cyclones intensify in strength, they are particularly hurting poor nations that are unprepared for the threat, researchers said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Poland.
In the tiny island country of Dominica, Maria caused losses equal to more than twice its gross domestic product, damaging or destroying about 90 percent of housing.
Lloyd Pascal, a Dominican climate negotiator whose home has yet to be fully repaired after being hit by the storm, urged the U.N. talks to pay more attention to “weaker countries.”
Dominica, with 72,000 people, lacks the ability to prepare for the increasingly severe weather it is suffering, he said.
Even though storm warnings are received, the state does not have resources to evacuate people into shelters, he said, nor understand clearly how heavy rainfall will boost river levels.
“We are just not prepared to do that kind of work,” he told reporters. “We are like sitting ducks.”
But rich countries, including the United States, also are seeing clearer climate impacts, and need to step up efforts to keep their people safe, Germanwatch said.
“Effective climate protection, as well as increasing resilience, is … in the self-interest of these countries,” Eckstein said.
The Germanwatch index highlighted other types of weather-related damage as well, from unusually heavy rainfall to landslides.
Sri Lanka, the second most-affected country in 2017, saw dramatic floods that year that killed 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The U.N. climate negotiations should drum up more support for the poorest countries like Nepal, Vietnam, Sierra Leone and Madagascar to deal with rising losses linked to climate change, Germanwatch said.
All four of those countries figured in the index’s top 10 of nations most affected by weather disasters in 2017.
“They need predictable and reliable financial support for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage,” Eckstein said.
Five years ago, the U.N. climate talks set up a mechanism to better understand the damage that now will be unavoidable as a result of the 1 degree Celsius hike in global temperatures that has already occurred.
The mechanism also seeks to find ways to deal with the consequences as the world warms further.
But industrialized countries — which have historically emitted the most climate-changing emissions — have refused to pay compensation to those who are less to blame for global warming yet find themselves on the front line of impacts.
At the Dec. 2-14 talks in Poland, arguments are expected over how progress on dealing with “loss and damage” should be assessed in 2023, when countries measure their climate action against the goals of the Paris climate accord. (VOA)