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Averting a second killer wave: The environmental impact of hurricanes

26 Sep 2019


Staff from the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit inspecting the Abaco secondary power station. Credit: OCHA/Christophe Ilemassene

Unfathomable devastation has become the signature of powerful storms such as Hurricane Dorian, which tore through the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands of the Bahamas in early September.

As far as the eye can see, lush forests seem to have been scorched, homes razed to the ground, roads and bridges disintegrated into tar confetti. The few surviving buildings serve to provide more depth to the hair-raising vision of apocalypse.

 Less visible yet potentially as harmful as strewed debris and sea surge are hazardous materials. Damaged industrial complexes, power plants, fuel and chemicals storage facilities, petrol stations and electrical grids can potentially leak toxic material in the wake of the storm – a second killer wave threatening life and the environment. Therefore, identifying possible hazardous sites, assessing damage and drawing a map of no-go zones is as vital as bringing first aid to survivors.

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