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Natural Disasters and Infrastructure Damage Essay

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Updated: Jun 6th, 2022

Natural events regularly occur; however, sometimes, they become many times more dangerous, turning into disasters. For coastal areas, hurricanes are the most frightening and destructive emergencies. Depending on their category and severity, they can damage trees or destroy buildings for kilometers from the coastline. This paper’s purpose is a comparative analysis of two devastating hurricanes of the past decade: Maria and Dorian.

First of all, during typhoons, the infrastructure of coastal zones, especially cities, suffers. A powerful stream of water can completely smudge roads, damage and interrupt communications, leading to a complete destabilization of the situation due to lack of communication. According to statistics, the hurricane season of 2019 in the Atlantic was extremely active, which can be noted on the consequences of Hurricane Dorian (Pasch et al., 2020). A hurricane-induced rise in water six and a half feet above normal flooded many roads. In the Bahamas, almost all beaches and streets were drowned, which exceedingly complicated movement (National Hurricane Center, 2020). Hurricane Maria did no less damage in Puerto Rico, especially in the city of San Juan. The streets were flooded with a storm, the water level in some places reached a level of 15 feet, which disabled many roads and cut off communications (National Hurricane Center, 2018). The city’s main airport was also damaged, and its work was disrupted due to the blowing wind.

Since both of the aforementioned hurricanes were disasters of the fifth category, the scale of the destruction that they brought was genuinely catastrophic. In the Bahamas, the storm wave height was about 20-25 feet, which affected the subsequent damage. According to statistics, almost 75% of homes on the northernmost island of the archipelago, Grand Bahama, were destroyed (National Hurricane Center, 2020). For the most part, those houses that were not so close to the water or were stronger lost their roofs due to hurricane winds. Significant damage was also caused by uprooted trees, which were thrown into the next building. According to statistics, the loss that Puerto Rico suffered was even more significant since 80 percent of all buildings were damaged after the hurricane on the island (National Hurricane Center, 2018). The causes and damage patterns are similar to the incident in the Bahamas – huge waves, combined with gusts of wind speeds of up to 155 mph, demolished many roofs and destroyed many houses.

No less damage from storms was caused to many critical resources. For the Bahamas, the most dangerous was water pollution due to a significant oil leak. The power network on New Providence Island was partially affected, but the next day up to 40% of the grid was restored, which provided residents with electricity (National Hurricane Center, 2020). For Puerto Rico, resource disruptions were much more significant. The island’s energy system was hit hardest, leaving nearly three and a half million inhabitants without power. The damage was so substantial that it took several months to repair it (National Hurricane Center, 2020). Together with the destruction of the mobile network and the ruin to most of the cables, Puerto Rico was practically deprived of the benefits of civilization.

The easiest way to assess the damage caused by hurricanes is to assess the situation created by the disaster in monetary terms. In the context of this comparison, the Bahamas suffered much less than Puerto Rico. The total damage in the Bahamas is estimated at $ 3.4 billion, most of which relate to property damage (National Hurricane Center, 2020). In second place in terms of costs for this region are economic losses, estimated at almost 700 million. In comparison, the damage that Puerto Rico has suffered is estimated at $ 90 billion (National Hurricane Center, 2018). Particularly significant damage was done to the infrastructure, power lines, communications stations, and radars. Besides, the region’s agricultural industry has been struck hard, as nearly 80 percent of the estimated 780 million dollars crops were destroyed (National Hurricane Center, 2018). The most substantial losses were suffered by coffee plantations, in which more than 18 million coffee trees were damaged.

Unfortunately, not a single catastrophe of this magnitude can do without casualties. Regardless of the measures taken, alerts do not always reach people on time. Hurricane Dorian has become one of the most massive disasters for the Bahamas region in its history. According to statistics, in the middle of a natural disaster, more than 70 thousand residents were homeless. By the beginning of 2020, after numerous searches, 74 dead people, and almost three hundred missing people were found (National Hurricane Center, 2020). Thus, the Bahamas suffered the most from all other places from this hurricane, surpassing, for example, the state of Florida in the number of deaths by almost 12 times. However, its loss of fades amid deaths from one of America’s most deadly hurricanes, Maria. During the disaster in Puerto Rico, according to statistics, nearly 3,000 people have died, and another 60 are still missing (National Hurricane Center, 2018). However, as with any emergency, valuable lessons can be learned from this incident.

It can be noted that the disaster in Puerto Rico took on a much larger scale than the accident in the Bahamas. This is true for all parameters, from the number of people killed to the extent of infrastructure damage and the damage caused. The main reason for such dire consequences was the many internal problems. Puerto Rico owes more than $ 100 billion in debt due to a protracted economic crisis that has lasted since 1917 (Rodríguez-Díaz, 2018). Various control systems are hopelessly outdated, which has reduced their reliability. Besides, there was an imposition of two natural disasters, since the region had not yet had time to recover from the hurricane Irma when Maria came. However, there were significant infrastructure problems that led to additional damage. First of all, it is necessary to strengthen these facilities to prevent such disasters and increase the reliability of infrastructure networks to withstand even such harsh conditions. If government agencies do not cope with this task, it may make sense to conclude partnership agreements with private organizations to monitor the state of infrastructure.

Thus, it can be noted that in the more prepared Bahamas, compared with the plight of Puerto Rico, the situation was much more prosperous. The expanded nature of the destruction is associated with the island location of this region, which implies a higher exposure to such natural phenomena. However, if the state does not strengthen the infrastructure, create protective measures, and pursue the wrong preparatory policies, the disaster results can be genuinely terrifying, as in Puerto Rico. In this regard, it is imperative to maintain the infrastructure of coastal areas in a stable condition to ensure residents’ safety. It can be done both by the state itself and by partner companies that monitor the state of the facilities. When the government is not able to maintain infrastructure in good condition, it is the latter approach that is recommended.

References

National Hurricane Center. (2018). Hurricane Maria. Web.

National Hurricane Center. (2020). Hurricane Dorian. Web.

Pasch, R. J., Roberts, D. P., & Blake, E. S. (2020). The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season: An active and destructive year. Weatherwise, 73(3), 32-39. Web.

Rodríguez-Díaz, C. E. (2018). Maria in Puerto Rico: Natural disaster in a colonial archipelago. American Journal of Public Health, 108(1), 30–32. Web.

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