Friday, February 19, 2010

Haiti earthquake caused 14 billion dollars in damages

A new study says that the Haitian earthquake caused 14 billion dollars in damage, and some experts are calling that estimate conservative. The Inter-American Development Bank says it is the most devastating natural disaster for any country since World War II. The bank compared the earthquake to 17,000 other natural disasters.

The Bank terms the Haitian earthquake the most devastating because of the proportion of damage it did to the country's total economic output. 117 percent of Haiti's annual economic output was damaged. For the tsunami of 2004, only four percent of Indonesia's economic output was damaged.

From the Washington Post, writer Mary Beth Sheridan gets some reaction to the study.

The U.S. government has committed over $500 million for relief efforts in Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake, and the Obama administration is expected to soon ask Congress for special funding for reconstruction there. Officials said the exact amount of the request hadn't been determined. But congressional sources said they expected it to be $1 billion or more.

Mark Schneider, who coordinated the American response to Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998, said $14 billion was "a relatively conservative figure" in estimating Haiti's reconstruction costs, since new structures cost more than old ones did.

He noted that about $6.3 billion was spent on rebuilding areas hit by Mitch, which killed about 10,000 people. The Haiti quake left at least 200,000 dead.

"You have the central political and economic core of the country essentially destroyed," said Schneider, who is now vice president of the International Crisis Group.

He said the U.S. government provided about $1 billion in aid to countries battered by Mitch, and should commit $3 billion to Haiti as part of a long-term commitment.

The development-bank study found that the death toll in the earthquake in Haiti dwarfed the toll in other natural disasters on a per-capita basis. Roughly 25,000 of every million Haitians died, compared with 772 deaths per million Indonesians in the 2004 tsunami, the report said.

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