Irma Lashes Caribbean, Houston Recovery, EU Refugee Ruling, and More

Irma Lashes Caribbean, Houston Recovery, EU Refugee Ruling, and More
  • Hurricane Irma has already killed at least 9 people as it plows through Barbuda, St. Martin, and the British Virgin Islands. Reports from Barbuda say that nearly all of the island’s buildings are damaged, making it nearly uninhabitable. And while Puerto Rico was not hit directly by the Category 5 storm, one million people are without power and it could take months for the territory to turn its lights back on due to its ongoing economic crisis. The hurricane is headed towards Hispaniola as well as Turks and Caicos, and will make a brush with Florida’s east coast later this weekend—although forecasters say it’s too early to determine whether it will make landfall. Voluntary evacuations in south Florida have been issued, and officials are standing by to determine whether to widen the evacuation area or make them mandatory. Two other hurricanes are following along on Irma’s tail  raising concerns about secondary impacts in the coming weeks. 

  • Meanwhile in Houston, residents are hustling to pick up the pieces as more rain from Irma is expected in the region over the next week. Citizens are also returning to school and work to help get the city’s economy and infrastructure back on track. Oil refineries and shipping channels are coming back to life as well, although some oil campuses were so badly lashed by Hurricane Harvey that they are expected to remain closed for a week or more. Local prosecutors are already investigating reports of home repair fraud and police impersonation. While Houston’s main school district remains closed this week—about 75 of its 275 schools received major damage—other districts in the area were back in action. 

  • The European Union (EU) has ruled that member countries must continue to accept refugees  Slovakia and Hungary have pushed back against the EU’s mandatory relocation program, which aims to rehome 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other member states. The European Court of Justice dismissed the two countries’ complaints, but the tensions over refugees are a sign of what is to come—the relocation program is set to expire at the end of the month, and discussions over permanent refugee quotas have already begun. Supporters of the program point out that it has resettled fewer than 28,000 refugees—far fewer than the estimated 120,000—easing tensions on member countries. But those protesting the resettlement clause—such as Hungary and Poland, which have not relocated a single person—say the ruling undermines national sovereignty and weakens security.

  • In other news, Pennsylvania has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an extension on implementing REAL ID, an update to the state’s driver’s licenses. Attempted breaches of U.S. power grids raise concerns about hackers testing their limits. A DHS employee discusses the response to Hurricane Harvey. And how the flow of donated goods after natural disasters create a supply chain challenge.