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Report Estimates Haiti Earthquake Damages Could Reach Nearly $14B

The total cost of the destruction in Haiti, resulting from the major earthquake last month, could add up to twice the value of the country’s annual economy, three Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) economists said in a report on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

The report found the “earthquake to be more devastating than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was for Indonesia, and five times deadlier than the 1972 earthquake that leveled Nicaragua’s capital,” according to the news service. “It is the most destructive (natural disaster) a country has ever experienced when measured in terms of the number of people killed as a share of the country’s population,” the report said (Katz, 2/16).

According to the New York Times, the study was “based on a statistical analysis of data from 2,000 natural disasters over 40 years” and made its estimates “based on a death toll of 200,000 to 250,000; earlier estimates had hovered around $5 billion” (Lacey, 2/16).

“[E]conomists Andrew Powell, Eduardo Cavallo and Oscar Becerra calculated a base estimate of $8.1 billion in damages estimated for a 250,000 dead-or-missing toll,” Reuters writes. “But they estimated this figure was likely to be at the low end and concluded that an estimate of $13.9 billion damages was within the statistical margin of error” (Fletcher, 2/16).

“Ten years after the disaster, Haiti’s economic output is likely to be roughly 30% lower than it otherwise would have been, the study added,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “‘This is the case even given significant increases in aid flows that tend to occur after a major disaster,’ the study said. While aid can help, ‘this does underline the challenge ahead for Haiti and for the international community attempting to support the country,'” according to the newspaper (Luhnow/Dugan, 2/17).

Meanwhile, news outlets continued to report on the earthquake’s effect on the country’s population.

USA Today examines Haiti’s tent cities and the prospects for rebuilding. “As many as 700 camps are spread throughout Port-au-Prince, its suburbs and outlying rural villages … Disaster experts say some of the needs of the homeless, such as clean water and medical care, can be addressed in months. Other needs, such as the rebuilding of their homes and school, will take years and tens of billions of dollars.” According to the newspaper, 55 aid groups along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) “have distributed 52,000 tarps and 23,000 tents. The agencies are expecting thousands more tents in the next two weeks. IOM estimates the cost at $39 million.”

The U.S. aid contribution was $450 million as of Friday, according to Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator. The article looks at long-term plans for shelter for those who lost their homes and jobs (Leinwand, 2/17).

The Los Angeles Times examines the plight of those who lost limbs from earthquake-related injuries. “No one knows how many [amputees] there are, although the number is clearly in the thousands. And no one knows what sort of future there will be for this new generation of the disabled in Haiti, where the loss of a limb in the past could condemn a person to a life on the margins, in a society where even the able-bodied struggle to get by” (Landsberg, 2/17).

TIME also looks at the prospects for Haiti’s amputees. By the end of the year. there could be “as many as 150,000” quake amputees, which is “almost 2% of the nation’s 9 million people,” the magazine writes.

“So can the country ever move ahead if such a large share of it has so much trouble moving at all, without the prosthetic help needed to be productive again? Artificial-limb donations are beginning to trickle in; doctors are urging charities, especially in the U.S., to collect used prostheses, as the late Princess Diana convinced them to do for land-mine victims. But it’s obvious that Haiti can’t rely on foreigners to fill such a vast order, or to provide the necessary physical therapy its amputees will require to be able to use them at all.” The article examines the efforts to assist amputees and how the large number of amputations could influence the rebuilding effort (Padgett, 2/17).

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