Who will pay for the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey?
2 September 2017
As some residents begin to return to their homes and rescuers search the still flooded buildings in and around Houston, Texas, the massive extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is only now being fully revealed. The consequences of what by some measures is the greatest natural disaster in American history will be far-reaching, not only for the millions of people directly affected, but for social and political stability in the United States.
The official death toll for the storm increased to 46 on Friday, though this figure is expected to rise in the coming days. As many as one million people have been displaced by the floods, turned into internal refugees. The number of flooded structures is estimated at 136,000 just in Harris County, which includes Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country.
Nearby Beaumont (population 118,000), which has been transformed into a virtual island, remains without running water, and it is it is not known when the city’s pumps will be repaired. Chemical and refinery plants throughout the region, like the Arkema facility that is the location of an ongoing fire, are still flooded. An unknown number of bridges and roads have been severely damaged and in some cases swept away.
AccuWeather is estimating that the overall cost of the storm could rise to $190 billion, or the equivalent of one percent of the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States in an entire year. This is nearly as much as Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Sandy (2012) combined. Such estimates do not include many additional costs, such as the additional health care expenses for thousands of people due to the toxic mix of chemicals and waste in floodwaters, or…