Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever be recorded, has resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people in the Caribbean.
The Category 5 hurricane is now set to hit Florida in the US.
Recently, the US was hit with yet another hurricane – 'Hurricane Harvey'. It landed in costal Texas as a category 4 hurricane on August 26, 2017. Thousands had to be evacuated as a result of the flooding. At least 70 people died due to the Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful tropical cyclones to have been recorded over the Atlantic. It developed on August 30th near the Cape Verde Islands. Irma had originated from a tropical wave that has moved off the west African coast. By September 5, due to favorable conditions, the hurricane picked up steam and had become a Category 5 hurricane.
It has caused widespread devastation in the Caribbean with many of the Islands nearly destroyed as a result.
Irma was able to sustain an incredible 185 mph (285 kmph) winds for more than 24 hours as a Category 5 hurricane. This is a record length of time. This also makes it one of the most powerful cycles to ever make the landfall.
The Island of Barbuda is one of the worst hit regions. According to officials, nearly 95% of all the buildings in the tiny island have been destroyed. It has also resulted in the death of at least one child. Prime Minister Gaston Browne surveyed the damage after flying over the island once the hurricane had passed. He said, “It's absolute devastation. The island is literally under water. In fact, I'm of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable."
The Island is home to 1,600 people. The Prime Minister also noted that nearly 50% of the residents were homeless and it would take $100 million to rebuild the island.
Overall, at least 10 people have died in the Caribbean due to the Hurricane Irma.
The Island of Saint Martin has also suffered from comparable damage. A top local official Daniel Gibbs said of Saint Martin that it was an “enormous catastrophe” and that 95% of the island was damaged. Saint Martin island is home to both a Dutch territory and a French territory. The Dutch defence ministry said: "The picture is of many uprooted trees, houses without roofs and pleasure boats on land." Additionally, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that the island is currently not reachable.
Antigua has escaped much damage and there have been no reported deaths caused by the hurricane.
Irma is now set to hit the United States. Florida, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands have all called a state of emergency. Federal disaster relief efforts have been mobilized to be called upon during rescue efforts.
United Nations has said that 37 million people are likely to be affected by Hurricane Irma.
The occurrence of Harvey and Irma has prompted discussions within the scientific community over the role played by climate change. Scientists believe that climate change did not cause the hurricane but it has played a role in making it more intense. Dann Mitchell, NERC Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute said, “The question of whether climate change 'caused' any particular weather event is the wrong one; instead, we must probe how climate change alters extreme weather. Aside from the warming atmosphere, rising sea level and surface ocean warming have likely contributed to the impact of both Irma and Harvey.”
Our assessment is that it would take years before the Caribbean region will be able to overcome the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma. Additionally, these acts of nature should serve as a wakeup call to governments to begin vital investments in addressing climate change.