Bri­tain’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma

The Guardian - - JOURNAL | LETTERS - Thom Cross Colin Burke Terri Jack­son Richard Coates Dr Robin Rus­sell-Jones

We should all re­flect with deep sym­pa­thy on the cir­cum­stances im­posed on the peo­ple of the Caribbean in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Irma and seek ways to con­trib­ute to dis­as­ter re­lief (Re­port, 12 Septem­ber).

In the Caribbean deadly and de­struc­tive hur­ri­canes are al­most an an­nual phe­nom­e­non at this time of year. Yet de­spite ma­jor im­prove­ments in fore­cast­ing, dis­as­ter man­age­ment and higher lev­els of con­struc­tion stan­dards, we are still wit­ness­ing tragic out­comes.

The UK has sub­stan­tial in­ter­ests in the Caribbean, both cur­rent and his­tor­i­cal. No doubt this Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar will have taken no­tice of the mas­sive dam­age to the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands where many bil­lions of pounds in Bri­tish off­shore funds are har­boured. The BVI’s busi­ness model of 0% tax on the thou­sands of off­shore funds and com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in Tor­tola may need to be re­vised in or­der to find mil­lions for re­cov­ery fund­ing.

But it is the hu­man tragedy that should drive Bri­tish gov­ern­ment con­cerns. Cari­com (the Caribbean sin­gle mar­ket) has es­tab­lished the Caribbean Dis­as­ter Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (CDEMA) with dis­as­ter re­silience, train­ing and shared re­source man­age­ment as goals. The UK gov­ern­ment should have sub­stan­tial stored emer­gency equip­ment and sup­plies in the re­gion. The Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment should have de­velop a strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with CDEMA of­fer­ing reg­u­lar fund­ing, train­ing and re­sources. Sup­port for CDEMA has come from Canada, Ja­pan and the EU; what is the UK con­tri­bu­tion?

But there is more. The images of mas­sive infrastructure dam­age show that board and zinc sheet build­ings have been de­stroyed, while con­crete and steel build­ings re­main stand­ing. The in­se­cure wooden dwellings, shops and churches be­long to poor black peo­ple, while the wealthy (and vir­tu­ally all of the white pop­u­la­tion) dwell in more se­cure struc­tures.

This is a so­cial dis­as­ter cre­ated not by hur­ri­canes but by his­tory, with Bri­tain and its em­pire mak­ing that his­tory in the Caribbean. Yes, there are oth­ers com­plicit in this his­tory but Bri­tain has direct re­spon­si­bil­ity for An­guilla, the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and the Turks and Caicos Is­lands – and it has his­tor­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to An­tigua, Bar­buda and the Ba­hamas. Cari­com has asked for talks with the UK gov­ern­ment on slav­ery repa­ra­tions. A well-funded Caribbean hur­ri­cane dis­as­ter man­age­ment and re­lief or­gan­i­sa­tion would be a good first step for the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment. Car­luke, South La­nark­shire • Ev­ery­body surely has great sym­pa­thy and con­cern for the lo­cal peo­ple of the Caribbean is­lands dev­as­tated by the re­cent hur­ri­canes. But it is be­yond satire to hear the gov­er­nor of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands call for the UK tax­payer to pro­vide mas­sive fund­ing for re­con­struc­tion. It is surely now ap­pro­pri­ate to im­pose a wind­fall tax on com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als who do not re­side on the stricken is­lands but shel­ter their wealth there pay­ing no in­come, cor­po­ra­tion, cap­i­tal gains, in­her­i­tance, wealth tax of any other form. Manch­ester • The hys­ter­i­cal me­dia re­ac­tion to Irma is fake. Over 7,000 peo­ple died in the Flora hur­ri­cane in the Caribbean in 1963, and the great Bar­ba­dos hur­ri­cane of 1780 killed 20,000-plus. In 1980 Allen tore through at 190mph, faster than Irma, killing 269, and Hur­ri­cane Mitch killed 11,000 in cen­tral Amer­ica in 1998. Al­though Irma is dan­ger­ous there have been many oth­ers more deadly. Over the past decade, hur­ri­cane ac­tiv­ity has been at its low­est for decades in the re­gion. Ban­gor, County Down • When the de­fence sec­re­tary wel­comed the multi-bil­lion pound air­craft car­rier to Portsmouth his state­ment de­fend­ing the mas­sive in­vest­ment against crit­ics in­cluded that the ves­sel would be utilised for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. It can carry hun­dreds of tons of sup­plies, ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters and troops, and could act as a mo­bile hos­pi­tal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­tre. So what is it do­ing lan­guish­ing in Portsmouth when it should be in the Caribbean? Hayling Is­land, Hamp­shire • Like Bill McGibben (Do you re­ally need more warn­ings about cli­mate change?, 11 Septem­ber), I first wrote about the likely im­pact of global warm­ing in 1989. Like many oth­ers, I as­sumed that once mat­ters were ex­plained clearly, peo­ple would change their ways. This turned out to be a delu­sion: we have an al­most un­lim­ited ca­pac­ity to deny the ob­vi­ous if it re­quires a fun­da­men­tal reap­praisal of our world view.

This is linked to the way we deal with our own mor­tal­ity. Ev­ery­one knows that they are go­ing to die, but very few con­tem­plate the re­al­ity of death un­less they are close to the end. Hu­mans are treat­ing global warm­ing the same way. They know it’s com­ing, but not just yet. Stoke Po­ges, Buck­ing­hamshire

It is be­yond satire to hear the gov­er­nor of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands call for the UK tax­payer to pro­vide mas­sive fund­ing for re­con­struc­tion Colin Burke

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.