First there was Harvey (see my blog of Sept 4). Now we have Irma, and soon there will be Jose. Hurricane Irma is the fiercest Atlantic tropical storm in a decade. It has caused more than 30 deaths across a number of Caribbean islands, including Barbuda which is now said to be ‘barely habitable’. Next in its path is Florida.
But the deadliest Atlantic hurricane of all remains the Great Hurricane of 1780, which made landfall in Barbados on 10 October. Most buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and ‘a luxuriant fertile island’ turned into ‘the dreariest winter.’ The number killed was put at 4,500.
Next the storm moved on to St Lucia, where only two houses survived in the port city of Castries. Five Royal Navy ships that had been fighting in the American War of Independence were sunk and nine others severely damaged. The island’s death toll was estimated at 6,000.
On St Vincent, more than 580 out of 600 houses at Kingstown were destroyed. At Grenada, 19 Dutch ships were sunk, while off Martinique, 4,000 French sailors were drowned, and perhaps 9,000 people lost their lives on the island. The total death toll from the storm was put at around 30,000.
For the full story, see Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion Books).