Monday, November 28

“Everything is at Risk”: Flood Survivors Urge Congress to Change Inadequate Insurance | Climate crisis

WWith U.S. towns and cities increasingly inundated by fierce storms and rising sea levels, a group of disaster survivors have pleaded with the federal government to review a flood insurance system that they say is in ill-equipped for an era of climate crisis.

A petition from nearly 300 people who have been flooded, and their advocates, will be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) asking for a drastic overhaul of the government-run flood insurance system underwritten by most of flood policies in the US.

“We have lived without electricity, running water and a safe haven.” read the petition, organized by the Anthropocene Alliance, a non-profit environmental organization. “We have heard our children cry over the absence of friends, school and safety. And we have faced homelessness, disease, and overwhelming red tape from insurance companies and government agencies. “

Survivors call for a ban on the development of “irresponsible” housing in flood-prone areas, new rules that provide buyers with the present and future flood risks of a property before purchasing it, and a greater focus on relocating communities and elevating properties away from floods rather than simply financing the rebuilding of flooded homes in the same location as before.

“Continuing to build in vulnerable places is pointless and must stop,” said Stephen Eisenman, chief strategy officer for the Anthropocene Alliance. “A lot of people are fooled into buying in these places because there are no federal disclosure laws. This is turning into a crisis, especially for the poorest people …

“We are beginning to see the beginning of a great American flood migration and that exodus will only accelerate in the next decade. Keep building in these areas is crazy. “

One particular controversy is a process called “fill and build” where developers pile soil over flood-prone areas, raising it slightly before building houses on compacted soil. Critics say this simply diverts flood water to neighbors and is a short-term solution to a chronic problem.

cars stranded on a flooded road
A truck is hoisted from a flooded I75 in Detroit on June 26, 2021. Photograph: Max Ortiz / AP

“We have developers building in wetland areas that can no longer hold water, so it just flows into us,” said Amber Bismack, a petition signatory who lives in Livingston County, Michigan, which is part of the metropolitan area. from Detroit. Bismack moved to the area, near a tributary of the Huron River, seven years ago and has seen his neighborhood flood 15 times during this time.

The flooding has gotten so bad at times that Bismack has had to put on wellies to carry his children home through the water. The family also had to temporarily move out of the house when the drains stopped working due to flooding. He said the worsening flooding is taking its toll on the local community.

“I can’t tell you how much depression we’re seeing in the community because it just floods over and over again, we’ve seen a real deterioration in people’s mental health,” said Bismack, who is part from a community group who is asking Congress to require disclosure of flood risk to all potential home buyers.

“I know someone who thought his flood insurance would cost $ 1,000 a year, but couldn’t figure out the true risk until he bought it and Fema deemed it high risk with a premium of $ 13,000 a year, which is uninhabitable,” he said . saying. “People are stagnant.”

The national flood insurance plan was launched in 1968 and has become the standard for millions of Americans who cannot obtain mortgages without flood insurance, which private providers routinely deny. However, the system has run into debt, with some houses repeatedly rebuilt in the same location only to be flooded again.

Fema considers homes to be at risk if they are in something called the 100-year floodplain, which means they have a 1% risk each year of receiving a foot of water in a flood. However, this system does not take into account proximity to water or the unfolding climate crisis, which means that many of the flood maps are inaccurate and expensive. do not reflect the real risk. “Fema is a joke, he doesn’t update his flood maps,” said Jackie Jones, a resident of Reidsville, Georgia, a city that often floods after heavy rains. “I wouldn’t have bought this house if I knew it would get so much water, but according to Fema’s maps, there are no floods here. They need to step up and take some control. “

In October, Fema unveiled a new system, called Risk Classification 2.0, which aims to address a situation where nearly half of the flood claims received by Fema come from people outside of areas where insurance is required. About three-quarters of the 4.9 million federal policyholders will pay more for their premiums. “We have learned that the old way of looking at risk had many loopholes, which underestimated the risk of flooding a property and communicated a false sense of security,” said David Maurstad, a senior executive with the national flood insurance program. told AP.

Some members of Congress have opposed the high premiums, arguing it will hurt people who require affordable housing, but Eisenman said the reforms don’t go far enough as they don’t actually stop new construction in risky floodplains. “Much more profound changes are needed,” he said.

Cases of ‘nuisance’ floods, in which high tides exacerbated by rising sea levels cause streets and houses to fill with water. have increased dramatically along the US shores in recent years and more powerful storms, fueled by a warmer atmosphere, are bringing more intense gusts of rain to parts of the country. Sea level rise alone could force about 13 million Americans relocate by the end of the century, according to research.

For many people, however, moving is not an option due to financial constraints or ties to home. “There is great concern and fear because everything is at risk, even people’s lives,” said Rebecca Jim, who lives in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Miami, a city in the area, has been regularly flooded by water that carries toxins from a mining site close to homes, schools and businesses.

“It is foolish and a crime that more buildings are allowed on the floodplains. But much of what is flooded here is tribal land and the people here are not moving from that. “

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