6 February, 2010 – As efforts in Haiti start focusing on providing shelter for earthquake survivors, on the re-building and reconstruction process, and on improving scientific understanding of earthquake risks, it is not too soon to focus also on hydro-meteorological hazards. The hurricane season starts in four short months – on June 1, and Haiti’s population remains amongst the most vulnerable in the world to rainfall, flooding and landslide hazards. Margareta Wahlstrom, United Nations representative for disaster risk reduction, warned recently, “There are probably 200,000 families without a roof,” and urged the international community to take measures so that “their disaster, that has already destroyed much of their life, is not exacerbated further.”
In light of these concerns, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) and the Caribbean Institute for Hydrology and Meteorology (CIMH) will extend support to Haiti in its long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts, particularly in hazard mitigation and future disaster prevention. CCRIF will support CIMH in making available tools and data to help planners and relief workers in Haiti to make better decisions about where to re-settle the citizens of Haiti and re-build infrastructure to minimise people’s exposure to flooding and landslides, especially in light of the upcoming hurricane season.
Immediately after the earthquake, CCRIF and CIMH recognised the critical need for the availability of more detailed rainfall data for Haiti in order to reduce future disasters in light of the country’s current high levels of vulnerability. CIMH began running high-resolution weather prediction models over Haiti daily which, according to Dr. David Farrell, Principal of CIMH, “will provide early warning for potential heavy rainfall events over major watersheds, especially those in the earthquake impacted areas. This data is important for informing rescue and recovery efforts in earthquake-impacted areas and indicating hydrometeorological risks to resettlement camps, especially those in, or close to, low lying areas and stream channels.” These 4km resolution, 48-hour rainfall forecasts can be accessed at: http://184.108.40.206/~haiti. The information may be used freely by the public (without modification) with appropriate acknowledgement of its source and an appreciation of the uncertainties present in the predictions.
In addition to the weather model, CIMH will be developing simple surface water flow models for key drainage basins to delineate the extent of probable flooding. These models, in conjunction with the historical rainfall record derived from the CCRIF Caribbean rainfall model, will be refined to develop flood hazard maps for critical basins. This information will be available in time to be able to further inform the planning of longer term re-settlement sites and will help decision makers and disaster experts identify those watersheds with high flooding potential that are prone to flooding, in particular flash flooding. CCRIF, with support from CIMH, already provides real-time hurricane hazard forecasts for all of its member Governments, and that service will again be further enhanced for the 2010 hurricane season.
CCRIF and CIMH view their support for Haiti at this time as a fundamental opportunity to contribute to Haiti’s sustainable and resilient reconstruction and as part of the organisations’ corporate social responsibility for contributing to the sustainable prosperity of Caribbean countries. In fact, the two organisations are hosting representatives from the Caribbean disaster management, meteorological and finance communities at a workshop in Barbados later this month to learn about the new CCRIF/CIMH rainfall model and to review the role of CCRIF and the level of coverage currently provided to CARICOM Governments within a broader risk management framework and in the light of the level of impact seen from the earthquake in Haiti.
About CCRIF: CCRIF is a risk pooling facility, owned, operated and registered in the Caribbean for Caribbean governments. It is designed to limit the financial impact of catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes to Caribbean governments by quickly providing short term liquidity when a policy is triggered. It is the world’s first and, to date, only regional fund utilising parametric insurance, giving Caribbean governments the unique opportunity to purchase earthquake and hurricane catastrophe coverage with lowest-possible pricing. CCRIF represents a paradigm shift in the way governments treat risk, with Caribbean governments leading the way in pre-disaster planning.
Sixteen governments are members of the fund: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 2007, CCRIF paid out almost $1 million to the Dominican and St Lucian governments after the November 29 earthquake in the eastern Caribbean; in 2008, CCRIF paid out $6.3 million to the Turks & Caicos Islands after Hurricane Ike made a direct hit on Grand Turk; and in 2010, CCRIF paid out $7.75 million to the Haitian government after the January 12 earthquake.
About CIMH: The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is a training and research organisation created to improve the meteorological and hydrological services for the economic well-being of Caribbean countries. CIMH provides training, research and investigations, and specialised services and advice. Students from all parts of the Caribbean, and sometimes beyond, are trained in such branches of meteorology as weather observing, forecasting, radar and satellite meteorology, instrument maintenance, agrometeorology, and climatology, and in operational hydrology. A key service provided by CIMH is to collect, analyse, and publish meteorological and hydrological data for use by all countries in the region.
For more information, contact Simon Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, David Farrell at email@example.com or CCRIF at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the websites for CCRIF and CIMH at www.ccrif.org / www.cimh.edu.bb.