This week, in the aftermath of the Category 5 hurricanes ripping up the Caribbean, some gripping videos and still photos are making the rounds, and a standout in the lot is a BBC documentary on Hurricane Irma titled ‘Apocalypse and the Aftermath’. (It may still be floating around online if you’re curious.) To the usual BBC standard, it is a powerful piece of video, but this like many such treatments failed to make the point that in the Caribbean our construction standard, generally, is fine for everyday living but totally inadequate when, as in recent weeks, a Category 5 storm arrives.
Look at most of pictures of the destroyed buildings and you will see that. Over the years, going back to when hurricanes were fewer and weaker than we are seeing now, country after country in the region had become complacent. A weatherman at the Met Office in Cayman told me when he first came to work there in the 1980s that he was shocked to see the range of residential one-storey structures, homes and businesses, built flat on the ground – no stilts, no elevated land. When he asked if they weren’t afraid of hurricanes, people laughed, “We haven’t had a hurricane here in over 60 years.”….