Dominican Official Says Urgent Help Needed to Deliver Food, Water, Shelter

Image of the devastation in Dominica/Photo: ABS Television/Radio
Dominican Official Says Urgent Help Needed to Deliver Food, Water, Shelter

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water — as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities,” Henry said. “The island has been devastated.”

A Dominican official has revealed the level of destruction Hurricane Maria brought to the island nation. Two statements from the advisor to the prime minister of Dominica called for aid and air support from the international community. He said the hurricane killed at least seven people, but feared that number might rise.

“It’s 4:30 a.m. and I just spoke with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit via Satellite phone,” Principal Advisor Hartley Henry said in the first of his statements. “He and family are fine. Dominica is not!! Tremendous loss of housing and public buildings. The main general hospital took a beating. Patient care has been compromised. Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that a very urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials.”

Hartley painted a picture of Dominica’s current state, saying that although little contact has been made with outer communities, “persons who walked 10 and 15 miles towards the city of Roseau from various outer districts report total destruction of homes, some roadways, and crops.”

The advisor said urgent helicopter services were needed to deliver “food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter,” adding, “Canefield airport can accommodate helicopter landings and it is expected that from today, the waters around the main Roseau port will be calm enough to accommodate vessels bringing relief supplies and other forms of assistance.”

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water — as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities,” Henry said. “The island has been devastated.”

In a later statement, Henry said the prime minister has continued to survey the damage across Dominica.

He said Caricom nations had come together to organize deliveries of food, water, medical supplies, and other forms of aid to the island. 

The neighboring islands of Antigua and St. Lucia would serve as staging posts for the deliveries, which should begin in the course of Wednesday. Two Venezuelan helicopters are on standby to ferry supplies from Hewanorra International Airport in St. Lucia to Canefield Airport, the smaller of Dominica’s two airports and apparently the only one currently able to receive helicopter landings safely.

“The port in Roseau, Dominica’s capital city, is scheduled to open later today, 20 September, allowing ships to bring relief as soon as it is no longer dangerous to travel by sea,” Henry said. 

Prime Minister Skerrit was expected to reach out to the international community later on Wednesday via ABS Radio in Antigua, to speak directly to world leaders and ask for immediate relief.

“The urgent needs now are roofing materials for shelters, bedding supplies for hundreds stranded in or outside what’s left of their homes and food and water drops for residents of outlying districts inaccessible at the moment,” Henry said.

“The country needs the support and continued help and prayers of all,” he added.

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed, as a direct result of the hurricane. That figure, the Prime Minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities today — Wednesday.”

According to Henry, all public facilities are being used as shelters.

All communications with the island were knocked out by the force of the Category 5 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 257 kph ripping the roofs off buildings on the island of 72,000 people.

Ronald Jackson, ‎executive director, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency said an estimated 70 to 80 percent of buildings have been damaged, along with hospitals, roads, and bridges.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said, “The government and people of Antigua and Barbuda stand in solidarity with the government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica during this time of need.” Barbuda was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

In Prime Minister Skerrit’s last communication during the storm, he told teleSUR that the nation has suffered “mind-boggling” destruction.

He said initial reports are indicative of “widespread devastation. So far, we have lost all that money can buy and replace.”

Skerrit himself had to be rescued from his house. In a Facebook post, he wrote “My roof is gone. I’m at the complete mercy of the hurricane. My house is flooding.

“So far, the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to, or otherwise made contact with. The roof of my own official residence was among the first to go, and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside,” he told teleSUR.

It was the first time Dominica had ever been hit by a Category 5 storm. In 1979, Hurricane David struck the island as a Category 4 storm. Some 56 people died and three-quarters of the population was left homeless.


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