Devastation and the extensive breakdown of essential services have followed Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic. The Category 5 hurricane wrought havoc on many of the Caribbean islands, with maximum sustained winds of 296 km/h bringing heavy rains and causing deadly waves. Those winds lasted for 37 hours, making Irma the longest-lived storm of that intensity anywhere in the world for at least the past 50 years, according to the United Kingdom Met Office.
The most severely affected areas include Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, and Turks and Caicos Islands. At least 35 people have reportedly lost their lives as of 12 September. However, the relatively limited loss of life can partly be attributed to the robust preparedness measures taken by national and local authorities before the hurricane made landfall. There have been reports of severe damage to housing, infrastructure, health centres, telecommunications, electricity, agricultural land, and water, sewage and waste systems.
The three-month Regional Response Plan (RRP) aims to cover the urgent needs of the most vulnerable populations in the Caribbean’s most impacted nations, territories and states. Developed with the support of national and regional disaster management entities, particularly the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the plan is based on preliminary indications from the multiple assessments carried out so far under CDEMA’s coordination leadership.
The RRP requires US$15.1 million to address the most urgent needs of an estimated 265,000 affected people until December 2017, and $11.9 million for complex logistics and communications assistance. It will support the regional effort to respond to the most urgent needs, such as re-establishing health and education services, ensuring access to safe water and sanitation, outbreak prevention and control, providing shelter, and coordination services.
Haiti did not receive the full brunt of the hurricane, but additional humanitarian needs have been identified, which will need to be covered through the current Humanitarian Response Plan for Haiti, for which funding is still needed. For Cuba, a specific Action Plan is being developed given the devastation wrought there.