Hurricane Georges, a natural phenomenon of massive proportions that brought death and destruction with torrential rains, marked history as a hurricane swept across the United States 25 years ago.
On Tuesday, September 22, 1998, a powerful Category 3 hurricane made landfall in the Dominican Republic with sustained winds of approximately 200 kilometers per hour. Atmospheric phenomena throughout National Geographic move in an east-west direction. The George incident affected almost the entire country, seriously affecting about 24 provinces.
In the capital alone, there was damage to thousands of trees uprooted by strong winds, as well as traffic lights, power lines, house roofs, illuminated signs, fences, radio and television antennas and satellite dishes.
Similar panoramas are observed in other areas of the territory. All of this is in addition to the thousands of homes, buildings, bridges and roads destroyed.
The official death toll was 283, while the number of victims rose to approximately 263,724, with more than 100,000 people living in temporary shelters.
The southern region was hardest hit and had the highest death toll, with 202 people dying in this region alone.
In this part of the country, damage was particularly severe in areas such as the city of Tamayo in the province of Bahoruco and the community of San Juan de la Maguana in Mesopotamia, which was swept away by the waters of the South Yak River. killed 36 people. Residents in areas affected by the Sabanayegua and Sabaneta dams were buried under mud after the reservoir gates were opened.
In the eastern region, the mayors of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, La Altagracia, El Sebo and Hutto were the worst affected. Families were killed by overflowing rivers in areas such as the capital Los Tres Brazos and Brisas del Ozama.
The total death toll reported at the time was criticized by a large segment of the population, who claimed the figure was higher and accused authorities of downplaying the tragedy.
A quarter of a century after the phenomenon occurred, Dominicans still have vivid memories of those catastrophic days.
For Tamayo native Claudia Fabian, George was “a really traumatic experience.”
“We were all sleeping when the hurricane hit and a neighbor warned that river water was coming, and when we put our feet on the ground and hurried out, the water was up to our knees,” he said.
Fabian, his family and even his neighbors, as well as some of his neighbors, took shelter on the second floor of his brother-in-law’s house.
On September 26, 1998, four days after George’s attack, the government reported the damage and determined that more than 60% of the country’s territory had been hit by the phenomenon. At this point, losses have exceeded $1.2 billion.
Agriculture and the environment suffered serious damage. According to statistics published by this newspaper in 2005, 15% of livestock died, 50% of forests were destroyed, and 90% of crops were destroyed in fields.
The agricultural sector was affected by more than P400 million due to losses in rice, sugarcane, coffee, cocoa, banana and vegetable crops.
Health problems are immediate and severe, including malaria and dengue fever, diarrhea and infectious diseases (conjunctivitis and respiratory disease).
Power and transmission systems cost the electric power industry more than $120 million. In terms of road infrastructure, losses have been quantified at approximately US$350 million.
Small businesses were destroyed, income levels among the rural population plummeted, and the tourism industry was plunged into a crisis from which many believed it would never recover. “The country is facing its worst disaster in the past 50 years,” reads the report, signed by journalist Ramón Urbáez.
Following the disaster, President Lionel Fernandez approved a national reconstruction plan and provided assistance to affected families and people. At that time, Dominica’s population was approximately 8.2 million.
The Dominican Republic is not ready for a weirdo like George. This is evidenced by the nation’s lack of management, action and response in the face of the disaster it left behind. They were unable to prevent the loss of so many lives or provide adequate relief to the victims in the wake of the hurricane.
As a result of this experience, the country has significantly strengthened its mechanisms to deal with future disasters.
This resulted in Decree No. 360 of March 14, 2001, which created the Emergency Operations Center (COE), and Decree No. 361 of the same date, which appointed the permanent representative of the National Emergency Council. That year, among other regulations, it came under the supervision of the Civil Defense Department.