After the storm: two portraits of hurricane recovery

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This is a c._b._c. Podcast hello. I'm jamie pussy <music> this week. A hurricane battered the bahamas stalling over the caribbean islands wins for date in the midst of historic tragedy my island island finish. Everything is going just bodies as i record this. The storm is headed towards south carolina. Then candidates east coast dorian is the latest example in a worrying trend involving climate change and intensifying hurricane seasons some of them invulnerable corners of the world today two different from portraits of hurricane recovery after storms in two thousand seventeen houston and dominika in the caribbean and the one thing that they have in common. This is from <music> two years ago. The small caribbean island of dominika was hit by a category five storm called maria maria lashing out with winds of nearly one hundred sixty not miles per hour. This used to be church. The baptist church one piece of along meaning. I lost. I lost my nieces. My brothers in martinique could go conditions gent's. I love this country. I i it's devastating for me was janeth. Eli is a reporter with the guardian her her parents are from dominika and three months after the storm passed she went to survey the damage and was shocked by what she saw. <music> lush vegetation has three hundred sixty five rivers. He's full foam. Tom and the landscape is when i got there. Trees were saccharin for mangoes bananas green abundance all that remains the barren landscape moonscape nothing there was leftover main road one morning okay and my mother's school in sofia in the southwest of the country which hardly completely flattened charge me. She made their holy communion destroyed by i in the sanitary where my father was buried with by for them broken. <hes> obviously i saw i understand something like doc. Ninety five percent of the buildings on the island were destroyed right out of the building <hes> with destroy mainly <hes> damage damage to the even the history of kaufman. The storm may people yes many streets the prime minister my vote's going hummus. I am i'm also homeless as a frame of the country is five people cool died and fifty thousand people with displaced by the storm in a population of about seven hundred twenty thousand now complete communication black count how on for a long time i didn't even know my family an uncle dad's it was a terrifying time. The country was i'm so sorry that you had to go through all of that when when you were able to talk to your family what did they tell you about what it was like to live through that storm well. They said the soul is absolutely terrifying. Something was coming but they hit the west of the storm's about children couldn't her earlier and i wasn't quite devastating and they thought they were in the clear but before long they realize that if something terrible happening and raise the tone off windows learning <hes> my family said that everything went black i'm they can handle this owning almost like some sort of monster was descending on them and it was absolutely terrifying was was just absolutely crazy like i saw death that night. It's terrifying. It's scary t._v. Close your eyes because you don't know what's going to happen. You're still thinking linking not when you called your eyes you hear the howling of the the wins like it sounded like like like a pack of wolves i if an island this is essentially you know ninety five percent destroyed what what does rebuilding even look like when you're starting from nothing what did the people of dominique and he can do in the aftermath of hurricane in terms of rebuilding. You'll start nothing. There was no running water. There was as i said a communication acacia blackout. They totally dependent on help from outside sources from neighboring islands. Tommy has often help from the u._n. From the world bank and former colonial power also which has its own unique problems an openness so they both help but it was a bit slow in coming in partly because of the nature of the damage to the country <hes> there was no <hes> they slice coming for a while. It was difficult for coming by the also with both airport shutdown people crowd the gates at the port to try to get on one of the few ships evacuating people out and when you say slow you know what do you mean by right on what what what does dominico look now two years on top of the country the country for the resilient people i'm so it looks very different to how it is when the hurricane hit the schools are reopen. The hospital is back up and running. Let's go pocket for various especially <hes> areas that were hardest hit which are on the coast that still you can still see the aftermath of the film. Will we still some structural damage but people have really have the resources to repair and kind of happiness in in the demeanor was the people <hes> i think the trauma has had a big impact and that's something that's often. I look whenever stolen nature. Can you tell me a little bit more about that. Well there are people although i spoke to in my family who have insomnia so awhile from with quite depressed they were children who had lost classmate <hes> literally it also not their homes were swept in the and these people were never seen again. I'm not lis having balked on on a people. I would also imagine you mentioned that there had been some successes in some brick and mortar rebuilding on the island but there would also be a heavy hit to dominika economy. How has that affected in the aftermath of the storm and probably through destroyed our culture pull. The transport sectors were with a disabled by by the storm. I had a devastating impact on the people and to resolve nope minister preferring phase and carrie kahn the face of dominica international experts disclosed that a single hurricane in a few hours so it's causing loss and damage equivalent to two hundred and twenty six percent of our country's g._d._p. The cost of building back better comes with a price tag far in excess of what small development sits dominico are able to meet single handedly. I i am wondering you. I mentioned to me that dominika did get some help from neighbouring islands and no other sources in response to hurricane an official from the island of saint lucia russia essentially said that caribbean countries like his end lake dominika are left on their own after a disaster where a state in the united added states is affected their another forty nine states which respond immediately because the continent we don't have that luxury and musha in fact. We are separated from all of the other islands. Do you think that that's true. Were that there's some truth in that say arriving. There has been help but the help hasn't come easy. It seems that there is a rich reluctance from former colonial powers enough. I think there is is the sense in dominate because that could have been done to help and with a bit more immediacy. I think maybe not easy from being transatlantic j. jay trade and influence so many consult resilient <hes> but most of them are descendants of intrigued africans and so property take remains wife on the island partly three that me then and there have been no reservation since trade which went on for centuries and what britain's wealth kamaz rebuilt on that there is an obligation from colonial powers to do more it strikes me that when you live in a place where events like hurricanes mccain's are almost an inevitability the idea that this will happen again whether or not there is an infrastructure to protect people from it. No how do people continue continue to cope with that well. I've noticed that people can just for the day. The problem is that change of widespread poverty majority. Georgia people cannot adequately pre owned. Many properties are made from aluminium would and so courageous existence. Many people push concerns. It's about upcoming hearkens back of their minds and even in the aftermath of hurricane maria the infrastructure that was built back up again was it the same kind of infrastructure that was built before the hurricane these aluminum homes that you're talking about as it replaces the divide between the rich and poor and what they can afford and so for example many of my family are involved in politics and education and the legal system on the item quite golfing they can afford luxury home the humble resilient to storm damage. I also have members of my family. My mother's side unfortunately are less fortunate and kinda bear the brunt of natural disasters. There is an awareness by the government that needs to be more resilient as storms governing it become more deadly and just a wild over the years recent reading the funds to do that and that's a problem island states. It's on the frontline. A bean asked to take out additional insurance against losses and damage which are the direct result of a change in climate caused by others. Let's this is asking the victim to pay by installment. Please correct me if i'm wrong here that as these storms are going to continue do the countries on the frontlines of them are in some ways the least equipped to recover from them. They are also. Maybe the least responsible responsible for them like i doubt dominykas carbon emissions are very high. What exactly i know it's a terrible problem and it seeing in many and -veloping countries and to quote the dominic and prime minister dominique casualties in the war against climate change orange school create that well the big countries took the small island nations suffered window curbing kurban do not produce greenhouse gases or so fit aeros we have made no contribution to global warming that can move the needle what's yet we are mown the mid victims on the frontline on the frontline janice. Thank you so much for being here with us today. Thank you now to houston. Texas as city hit hard by hurricane harvey in two thousand seventeen a storm now tied with katrina as the costliest in american history house today. This storm in houston has produced the single largest rainfall amount has ever been recorded in the continental united states. This is the buffalo bayou but you can't the ends and the downtown starts the current listen. You know we have to bust a window to get out. This is the first how we've seen how much how much water it has. It's been so we'll talk to max best press a professor at houston's rice university who has spent the last two years studying the way the city responded to storm hi max hi so i i understand you to houston i in three weeks before harvey hit right. We're we're we're you went ahead. That's right. I was <hes> in my brand new apartment. I had just started my job as an assistant professor professor of sociology here at rice and i live in a high rise which is not super common in the cityscape of houston and so so i had an unobstructed view to a big part of the city and these four or five days of just nonstop rain it did it feel to you at the time that the city was adequately prepared for the storm. No i think having not lived lived here very long. It really didn't seem that the city in general was able to respond in adjuster equitable way or even really just <hes> be prepared for something of that magnitude officials begging residents to stay strong. I know what you're going through. I know you're scared. I i know you're panicked panicked. I know you feel like in desperation right now but know that help is coming. <hes> help will be there and we will help bring all of this back in the few days after the storm. The amount of people who were needing shelter in places like the convention center and energy stadium radium was massive. Harvey evacuees are streaming into the city's convention center officials had originally planned to house just five thousand people there. They are well past ten thousand when people honestly they've just lost track. You've lost everything yes and the clothes you're wearing came from donations. Yes ma'am material will get it back. Eventually you know but no you can't get back your life and the scope of it was really really intense in the few days after the storm had. Can you paint a picture for me of what that scope looked lake. I think there's a few is to sort of imagine. How intensive was one is that there's obviously numbers like tens of thousands of homes destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings more broadly tens of thousands of vehicles underwater but getting there personally to the the convention center which i did on the fourth day of the storm and having i think people trying their best both <hes> red cross employees but then also the city in general trying to coordinate everything that was going on even with all the sort of goodwill and i think <hes> effort that was going into it. People bull had no idea who were showing up from these flutter properties about where they could go where they were going to stay for the next few days. Let alone weeks right or months. It's been very stressful not knowing what's going to happen where we're gonna go or i knew i came return back home because there isn't anthony returned to my car got flooded out. The house is split it out. I don't know what to do next really so i'm just basically at a standstill <hes> and it wasn't really until weeks after the storm that i think fema really hit the ground and started giving people options about what to do right. We're talking flooded. That'd areas huge power outages. It was hard for people to get information yeah. The communication systems in general were <hes> weak at best and and most people i think who had to be rescued or once who <hes> evacuated themselves from their flooded properties were often confused about where to go and what to do and i know for texas at least eighty people died. That's right so in some ways what people were touting the lower. Our number compared to storms katrina and part of that is that there was very little wind this far inland with hurricane harvey was mostly fled but <hes> that's obviously still still a devastating number and the number of people that die in any of these kinds of events. Obviously is something that i think can be reduced. All efforts should be made to be reduced. Do you have a sense of how deeply disaffected houston's economy so i'm thinking about the oil and gas sector here interestingly at least in terms of employment houston was not hit that hard <hes> the economy in this region was on an upswing before the storm. There's obviously dip in a couple of different indices ah including employment but in the months afterward there's a pretty robust recovery now obviously that masks a lot of heterogeneity within in different kinds of communities but if you're looking at it from from abroad picture <hes> the houston economy continued to do very well bleed in general rolled by a still a very robust natural gas market across the globe and and when we're talking about a recovery what kind of things were done in the weeks a month breath after the hurricane so fema came and set up regional branches throughout the metro area that were go to in points for folks who have flooded and we're able to get resources about information <hes> filling out paperwork <hes> getting loans from the small opposition administration which <hes> administers loans in the aftermath of disasters here in the united states and i think those were by enlarge pretty effective <hes> <hes> in some in some ways. I think another this issue of communication is still a really big one. Even in the months afterward and recovery was very uneven. You had communities cities that are pretty well off that i would say within three to six months looked pretty good in good shape and <hes> certainly six months afterward would've looked like if you were driven through a never been there before that almost nothing had ever happened but once you start to go inside people's properties. I think there's a lot of difference because some people bull had the funds and insurance right to be able to pay for repairs and a lot of people didn't and i think there's still folks even two years out who are living the properties that are still unfinished from the damage that was caused by hurricane harvey. I know you've spent a lot of time watching how one neighborhood rebounded a largely white middle class area and a creek and what struck you the most about their situation. I think the most interesting thing is the differences across households solds even in one neighborhood this from the surface looks like a very homogenous place a lotta middle class folks who are mostly white but because some of them had flood insurance and some of them did not they were getting vastly different amounts of money in the aftermath of the storm and in this one neighborhood where i've been doing doing research <hes> there are still folks who don't have drywall up <hes> two years after the storm just because they were older on fixed incomes and while they were uh on their homes and had sort of attained a middle class lifestyles in some ways you know they don't have the kind of cash reserves necessary for rebuilding. I i would imagine and correct me if i'm wrong but that that would get worse as you move into lower income neighborhoods to right. I think that's right. One thing we know from decades of research on natural disasters certainly work here in houston from hurricane harvey as well as that disadvantage places are always more vulnerable to natural disasters both in terms of the effects but then also oh the inequality that persists in the long-term afterward and recent research by my colleague jim elliot here rice and junior how who's at the university of pittsburgh has shown that areas that get fema funding actually see increases in income inequality in the years after meaning that natural disasters actually make more inequality folks who are more disadvantaged become even more so by the fact of being hit by a hurricane you take away for me from this this conversation with you but also the conversation with janice about dominika is that cer- certainly storms don't discriminate they hit everybody but recovery's hover is do and and i suppose you can take this down the line that in houston poorer people were adversely affected but then when you are in a poor a country like dominika. You're facing even greater hurdles. I think that's exactly right is that everyone talked about. Harvey is being a storm that acton discriminate and that is largely true. Some of the wealthiest neighborhoods of houston sit on these really beautiful by us and creeks and they flooded really badly <hes> but in the aftermath of the storm. It's really where you start to see. Inequality emerge really intensely and that's largely true. I think across neighborhoods it's true across regions and it's true across countries as well and so when places like dominica or puerto rico get hit really hard by natural disasters and climate related disasters there obviously already starting at at a disadvantage and these inequalities between places are only going to get greater as these disastrous become more intense max. Thank you so much my pleasure <music> <music> as we mentioned at the top of the show hurricane doria and has taken a catastrophic toll on the behemoth math at the time that we recorded this on thursday afternoon. At least twenty people were confirmed dead. We're learning of canadian who was killed in the storm and the bombs uh-huh alicia. Loyola was twenty seven years old originally from southwestern ontario. We do know the rest of her family. Her husband and children including a toddler are parts safe. Fred burner comes to you from a._b._c. News n._c._p._c. podcast the show is produced by shannon higgins imaging bouchard matt almo- crisp chris peru bay and elaine special. Thanks this week ellen paint smith charlie chou and the early edition team in vancouver. We owe you guys derek. Vander andrew wake is our sound designer and technician. Our music is by joseph chavez of boombox sound. The executive producer front burner is nick mccabe locos. I'm jamie. Thanks so much for listening and see you guys on monday loan for more c._b._c. Podcasts go to c._b._c. dot c._a. Slash podcasts.

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