Dominica Devastated by Hurricane Maria

29 September 2017

Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called on UN members with “substantial military capabilities” to lend Dominica rescue and rebuilding equipment.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York he told delegates, “we need water, food and emergency shelter. We need roads, bridges and new infrastructure. But we also need capabilities of delivery”.

His remarks reflect the utter devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on September 18.

The Category 5 storm left at least 27 dead, and an estimated 60,000 to 65,000 people, or 80% of Dominica’s total population, affected. Agriculture was almost totally destroyed, most homes sustained major damage, and much of the island’s infrastructure has been damaged irreparably, including power transmission and clean water supplies. In addition, schools, health centres, and police stations were destroyed along with many roads and bridges essential to communications across the island’s mountainous terrain.

Speaking after the hurricane struck, Prime Minister Skerrit said: “Every community, every village, every street was impacted, especially private dwellings. Many people are now homeless. People have lost everything. The road network has been compromised and some villages have been cut off from the rest of the country and it will take us a long time to get to them. We can only get to some villages by boat, not even by helicopter to get supplies to them”.

Speaking later, Prime Minister Skerrit said that he would be inviting the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and the OECS to carry out their own independent assessments in order to share with international donors the challenges facing the country. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility
has already paid out US$19.3m for immediate disaster relief.

Following an initial breakdown of law and order, characterised by widespread looting, a jail break, and individuals ignoring the imposed curfew, the Prime Minister subsequently reported that with assistance from the security services and police forces from neighbouring islands, the situation is now under control. Mr Skerrit said that the curfew will only be lifted on the advice of the police.

While CARICOM neighbours have sent immediate supplies and technical support; some nations, most notably Trinidad & Tobago, have offered to waive immigration restrictions so that Dominicans left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Maria can find shelter. However, few are able to contribute financially to the islands reconstruction. Coming just two years after Tropical Storm Erika caused damage equivalent to an estimated 90% of Dominica’s GDP, the country will need substantial outside assistance and many years to recover.

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Photo Credit: DFID, ‘Hurricane Maria destruction on Dominica’, http://bit.ly/2yx3oYs, Flickr