Hurricane Irma survivor to give talk
A survivor of Hurricane Irma’s hit on the British Virgin Islands will today discuss how small islands can tackle an increased threat from major storms.
Angela Burnett experienced first-hand the devastation of the Sepember 6, 2017 Category 5 hurricane in her homeland, which was recorded as the most powerful Atlantic hurricane at the time of landfall.
It has since been surpassed by last month’s Hurricane Dorian, which devastated parts of the Bahamas.
Ms Burnett, who wrote a book on the experiences of other Hurricane Irma survivors, said there was a need for small, low-lying islands such as Bermuda to join forces to tackle problems they all faced.
She added: “I’ll speak from the perspective of having been involved in developing climate- change policies and adaptation projects as well as data-related projects. I will be providing models of good examples of physical adaptations.
“Flood risk is one of the key things that needs to be enhanced, and drainage systems are important to adapt, because our islands are traditionally dry and we have not built for heavy rain events.
“Even those islands that have been wetter are seeing extremes they have not seen before.”
But Ms Burnett, who has a degree in environmental studies and sustainable development, warned: “It is not enough to take physical measures, there also needs to be adaptation in policymaking, in data measurements and analysis capabilities.
“We need a network of weather stations that capture certain conditions such as rainfall and humidity to help us develop early warning systems.”
Ms Burnett will be speaking alongside weather experts at the Climate Risk Forum.
Other speakers will include David Burt, the Premier, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the Bloomberg empire, a former mayor of New York and part-time Bermuda resident, and Mark Guishard, a Bermudian meteorologist and the head of risk prediction at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.
Ms Burnett said she wanted to promote solutions that “balance environmental, social and economic goals that are resilient to climate change”.
She added: “From a policy perspective we must come up with plans for waste water treatment. There needs to be a combination of physical, policy, data adaptations and capacity building around the key institutions.
“Natural barriers — coral reefs and mangrove — must also be protected. We saw the benefits of corals in protecting BVI island Anegada after Irma.”
Ms Burnett will highlight some of the stories she collected for The Irma Diaries: Compelling Survivor Stories from the Virgin Islands, published in 2017.
She said she wrote it to put human faces to hurricane damage in a bid to spark more action to deal with climate change.
Ms Burnett added: “I will speak from multiple perspectives, firstly as a survivor of Hurricane Irma, I will give my first-hand account.
“I will also touch on 25 survivor stories from my book. I used the book to raise awareness of climate change to small islands by trying to bridge personal human connections. I wanted to make climate change more real and tangible rather than scientific, distant and vague, and bring it home for people in a way anyone can relate through real human emotions.”
• The Climate Risk Forum, organised by the Bermuda Tourism Authority, will be held at the Hamilton Princess Hotel, from 7.45am to 4.30pm. The event is held every year in association with the PGA Tour: Bermuda Championship
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