Hurricane Irma, Maria Bring Destruction to the Caribbean

Sixt vehicles at its St. Maarten location were parked and secured, but after Hurricane Irma hit, looting took place. People syphoned gas out of parked cars, leaving fuel trails everywhere. It appears a spark from down electrical lines ignited the place and the cars. Photo courtesy of Sixt.
Sixt vehicles at its St. Maarten location were parked and secured, but after Hurricane Irma hit, looting took place. People syphoned gas out of parked cars, leaving fuel trails everywhere. It appears a spark from down electrical lines ignited the place and the cars. Photo courtesy of Sixt.

Over the last few weeks, most of the northern Caribbean islands have been battered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Fernando Intriago, vice president for Sixt’s Latin America and Caribbean operations, provided an update on the level of damage to many of the Caribbean islands. Both hurricanes caused destruction from Guadeloupe to the Bahamas, including Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos, with the most damaging effects in St. Maarten, Barbuda, St. Thomas, and the British Virgin Islands.

“Car rental operations have come to a complete stop in St. Maarten as the destruction of Princess Juliana International Airport forced a complete closure for days,” said Intriago. “There’s vast damage to Antigua and Barbuda’s infrastructure and fleet. There were airport closures in Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico; there is also fleet damage in those countries.”

This week, Hurricane Maria hit many of the same areas as Irma. It went from a category 2 hurricane to a category 5 in less than 15 hours.

“Hurricane Maria decimated all car rental operations in Dominica, and it’s expected to bring massive flooding and wind damage to fleets in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos once again,” said Intriago.

It looks like many car rental operations won’t return to normal for a long time, especially with most hotels and resorts being forced to shut down for repairs that will take months. According to Intriago, the process to reopen rental operations will be slow with weak telecommunications and limited electrical power. And when it comes to fleet, replacement for fleet vehicles is limited and the process of fleet imports will come second to the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria’s destruction was severe to many rental car operators, but Intriago says that Sixt escaped damage for the most part. Sixt will plan to reopen its Puerto Rico operations as early as Saturday morning.

“As uninsured fleet losses pile up and with hotel and air travel cancellations mounting while the hotel infrastructure rebuilds, some rental car operators may simply not be able to survive the downturn,” said Intriago. “And some operators will rebound to capitalize the silver lining opportunity that the need of transportation for the recovery efforts yields. While it will be a long time before we see a sunny forecast for the already beaten segment, there will be plenty of business opportunities under the cloudy aftermath of this hurricane season.”

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