Hurricane Dorian, the monster storm that struck the Bahamas with punishing 185 mph sustained winds and 25 feet storm surges in early September, caused an estimated $3.4 billion in damages, according to a new report by the Inter-American Development Bank.
The amount, which puts the Bahamas on a difficult path to reconstruction, is equivalent to one-fourth of the country’s gross domestic product. That’s equivalent to the United States losing the combined economies of Florida, California and Texas, the report said.
The IDB said the government of the Bahamas asked it to do the study following Dorian’s trail of destruction which, according to the study, left 29,500 people homeless or without jobs — or both.
The official death toll remains at 67, though the report acknowledges that 282 people were still missing as of late October.
“Reconstruction efforts will last many years and will require a well-coordinated participation of public and private sectors, civil society and the international community,” said Daniela Carrera-Marquis, the representative of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Omar Bello, a lead author of the report, said the Bahamas will require major investments as a result of Dorian’s destruction to houses, essential infrastructure and the ecosystems of the Abacos and Grand Bahama — the two islands that were most heavily impacted.
“The economy and livelihoods will be impacted for years to come from the temporary absence of damaged assets, especially those of tourism and fisheries,” said Bello, coordinator for the Sustainable Development & Disaster Unit at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The team doing the damage and loss assessment consisted of experts from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC; the IDB and the Pan American Health Organization. They began in early October.
Abaco suffered 87% of the damage due to Dorian’s Category 5 winds and storm surges; Grand Bahama suffered 13%.
The housing sector suffered the highest damage, while tourism sector bore most of the losses, the report said. Approximately 9,000 homes sustained some damage on the two islands. On Abaco, more than 75% of the dwellings were affected while nearly 60% of the houses were severely damaged.
“Damage resulted from high winds and storm surge and was exacerbated by poor construction practices and communities and infrastructure located in vulnerable areas,” the report said. “Reconstruction is expected to be a long-term process, which tests the strength of a country’s institutions.”