After having strengthened into the highest category 5, Hurricane Dean, the first major Atlantic hurricane of the 2007 season and the third most intense on record, hit the Mexican east coast of Yucatan State on 21 August with winds up to 280 km/hour, to subsequently weaken and be downgraded to category 1. Dean is moving over the coast of the neighbouring Campeche State where it is expected to landfall on 22 August.
Hurricane Dean entered the eastern Caribbean on 17 August, causing 13 deaths and resulting in thousands of displaced people, as well as severe damage to housing and infrastructure in Martinique, Guadaloupe, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize and Mexico. United Nations country assessment teams are evaluating the emergency humanitarian needs in the aftermath of the disaster. Large numbers of affected population are in need of food and non-food assistance throughout the region. Distribution operations by Government and non-governmental organizations are already underway.
Severe damage to the agriculture sector is reported in the two French islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, where preliminary estimates indicate that 100 percent and 80 percent respectively of the important banana crop have been destroyed, with the cost of the damage amounting to Euro 100-120 million. Losses of fruits and vegetable crops, as well as livestock, are also reported.
In Dominica, provisional official estimates indicate massive damage to agriculture, with 99 percent of the important banana sector, accounting for some 10 percent of the country's GDP, adversely affected by the Hurricane's passage. Other crops were also badly damaged.
In Jamaica, a detailed assessment of crop losses is not yet available but serious damage to bananas plantations and other food crops is reported in seven of the country's 13 parishes. Worst affected have been the eastern parishes, in particular Portland and St. Mary where 90 to 100 percent of the banana trees have been destroyed.
In Saint Lucia, according to a recent report of the National Emergency and Mangement Organization flooding caused severe battering to the banana plantations in six of the country's valleys, with 85 percent of the plantations affected in the Roseau valley (region 7), 65 percent in the Cul de Sac valley (region 8), 60 percent in Dennery valley (region 3), 80 percent in the Northern Farms, 70 percent in the Micoud/Patiente (region 4) and 40 percent in Belle vue (region 5). Heavy seas have also resulted in a number of boats and engines being lost and damaged.
Despite the loss of preferential treatment in the European market, banana remains a key export commodity and source of foreign exchange in the affected islands of the Caribbean, in particular in Dominica and Saint Lucia. Rehabilitation and replanting of banana trees will take several years.
In Haiti, only moderate damage to banana plantations is reported in southern parts. By contrast, abundant rains elsewhere in the country are likely to have benefited the second season sorghum crop and other foodcrops on the ground. In the Dominican Republic, no damage to the agriculture sector has been reported so far.