Britain’s responsibilities after Hurricane Irma
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