By Jeffrey Todd
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The economic toll of Hurricane Sandy on The Bahamas could be as high as $300 million, according to a regional insurance organization.
The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) said damage to public infrastructure and private property is expected to be worse than Hurricane Irene, which pummelled the archipelago in August of last year. CCRIF’s estimates, calculated through a specific model, also take into account budgetary reallocation and anticipated lending from international organizations, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
"We are estimating the toll will be higher than Irene, but not significantly higher," said Simon Young, CEO of Caribbean Risk Managers Ltd, the facility supervisor of CCRIF. "It will be higher than $300 million. But if you start to include the short-term tourism drop off, the toll could rise above that."
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said The Bahamas has lost thousands due to mass cancellations in the US and Canada. Meanwhile, resorts in the country have been forced to compensate visitors that were stranded here during and after that storm.
Sandals, for example, has given more than 300 guests credit for a future stay due to the passage of the storm.
CCRIF's official "event briefing" report revealed "severe damage" on Cat Island.
Many of the other islands received damage, although the report highlighted Grand Bahama in particular.
"Many homes in the area of Queen's Cove on Grand Bahama experienced severe flooding, with roads in that area being impassable due to the height of the water. Grand Bahama International Airport was also affected by flooding, especially in the parking lot and the domestic terminal, which could not be used to accommodate passengers arriving from New Providence and other islands," the report stated.
Young said Hurricane Sandy's impact on Grand Bahama makes it especially unique from Irene. It has also contributed to a higher overall economic toll assessment by CCRIF.
"Economically, Grand Bahama is important. With Irene, strong winds really impacted some of the smaller islands where individuals have investments, but overall economic activity is lower. Grand Bahama will have more economic loss," he told Guardian Business.
Assessments will continue to be made over the coming weeks across the country.
John Canton, director of Public Works, suggested to Guardian Business that public infrastructure will take a $17 million hit, although that number could rise over time. That figure does not include losses by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian