The aim of this study is to analyse the ‘window of opportunity’ of the post-Irma reconstruction in Saint Martin. The 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean Basin recorded 18 events (storms and hurricanes), including Category 5 hurricane Irma on which this article focuses. Located 250 km north of Guadeloupe, Saint Martin is a small bi-national island composed of two entities: Sint Maarten in the south (state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) and Saint-Martin in the north (French overseas ‘Collectivité’). This research focuses on the French region, and reconstructions and formalises various attributes, operations and sectors preceding and following the passage of the cyclone.
This research highlights twelve key variables distributed within four interdependent spheres (political-administrative, economic and financial, socio-cultural and land-use planning) of Saint-Martin's vulnerabilities. This is represented and analysed schematically through an ‘influence diagram’ (ID). The research outlines the balancing or reinforcing effects of four major variables of the post-disaster period: state re-engagement, post-disaster price increases, intra-communal solidarity and updating risk prevention plans. It appears that disasters alone cannot be considered as a ‘window of opportunity’ given the weight of pre-existing structures and operating patterns. The case of Saint-Martin illustrates the inertia of a system in the face of a major event, despite strong decisions to implement disaster risk reduction and recovery.