Hurricane Sandy hit Cuba’s GDP as much as New York City’s

The scene in  Gibara, Cuba and Breezy Point, Queens, New York City
The scene in Gibara, Cuba and Breezy Point, Queens, New York City
Image: AP Photo / Franklin Reyes, Getty Images / Spencer Platt
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There are few things that New York City shares with Cuba.  But the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy unites them in a pretty dreadful way: The storm’s devastation was at least as bad in Cuba as in New York.  The Cuban government has not issued as yet an estimate of the extent of the damage, and, given the difficulty of valuing assets in a country without markets, we may not get it ever—at least not a reliable one.  However, we can guess the order of magnitude of the devastation in Cuba and compare it with the estimates of the damage in New York.

Breezy Point, Queens, New York City on Oct. 30, 2012.
Breezy Point, Queens, New York City on Oct. 30, 2012.
Image: AP Photo / Frank Franklin II

We can build our guess based on a comparison with the destruction caused by Hurricane Dennis in 2007, which was valued by Fidel Castro at approximately $1.4 billion.  Even if Sandy was a Category 2 hurricane, inferior in the ranking of destructiveness to the Category 4 Dennis, the damage caused by the two monsters was similar.  According to Cuban government estimations reported by Cuba, Dennis damaged 120,000 homes and destroyed 15,000 of them.  About 24,000 roofs were completely wrecked and 60,000 were partially destroyed. After Sandy, local authorities cited by CBS News reported that it damaged 150,000 homes in Santiago and Holguin, of which 17,000 were totally destroyed.  Over 46,000 homes lost their roofs totally or partially.  Thus, if we assume that the similarity in the number of houses destroyed translates into a similar loss, the damages caused by Sandy could be guessed at about $1.4 billion.

Cuba Streets 11012012
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba on Oct. 26, 2012
Image: AP Photo / Franklin Reyes

If this were the case, this would represent 2.4% of Cuba’s GDP, estimated in $57.5 billion by the CIA Factbook.  This is quite similar to the New York City’s loss.  According to the official estimate, New York City’s GDP was $1.3 trillion in 2010 while the losses caused by Sandy have been widely estimated at around $20 billion.  The ratio of the latter to the former is 2.3%, or approximately the same as the Cuban estimate.    Thus, New York City and Cuba seem to have shared not just the tragedy of being in Sandy’s path but also the cost of the damage it caused relative to their population’s income.