Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, on Monday, thanked members of the regional and international community that have so far come to the aid of his island, one week after it was battered by Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that left a trial of death and destruction.
“So over the next few days this country will have lots of food and supplies and the intention is to get it to all of the people in the quickest possible way. But we have to be orderly, we have to be respectful of the authorities,” said Skerrit, adding that Dominica is “open for business”.
Skerrit said that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman and Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell as well as the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, are due here on Tuesday.
“These visits are important, it adds to the hope and calmness of the people that we are not alone in this struggle,” Skerrit said.
Skerrit told a news conference that he was pleased with the regional and international response to the disaster that has left millions of dollars in damage and more than 50 per cent of all housing structures significantly damaged.
While the death toll officially has been placed at 27, unofficially, the number of dead is nearing 70 with several communities engaged in burials.
Skerrit told reporters that several communities than in the past had been in accessible, were now open including the main network from the capital to the airport in the north of the island.
He said while the Portsmouth to Roseau road is opened, it would require the use of four wheel vehicles and that work to restores several bridges have already started.
Skerrit, who welcomed the senior officials of the Regional Security System (RSS) for the work being done in maintaining law and order here since the hurricane, also indicated that his administration would be pushing the Dominica Electricity Company (DOMLEC), the telecommunication companies, LIME and DIGICEL in order to restore electricity and telecommunications as soon as possible.
“I am talking to the managers, I am pushing for the roads to be cleared because once the roads are cleared you can bring supplies to our people,” Skerrit said, adding that there was need for total unity among the entire population in going about the reconstruction efforts.
“If you see a piece of galvanise and you take it out, it will help us, if you clear the streets it will help us,” he said, adding that this week, the authorities will be engaging “teams of people and they will be paid to help with the clearing.
“So we will go to communities announce when we will be there so that we can solicit names of people who are interested in working in clearing the roads with pay. The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) when I was in New York committed three million US dollars to help with that, so they will be paying some of the people for us…to create employment so that people can be engaged and moving forward.
Skerrit said he wanted to commend the police officers noting “sometimes we criticise them, but I can tell you these police officers have been exceptional.
“The majority of them have lost homes, some have not been able to go home to see the situation and they have been there before the hurricane, during the hurricane and after the hurricane and they continue to be there.
“We have friends from the region, from the RSS…helping us and all of them doing a fantastic job,” he said, adding “I would want to reiterate to the country we will not tolerate indiscipline and lawlessness whatsoever.
He repeated that the curfew is between 4:00 pm to 8:00 am (local time) and “we will review the curfew as we go and on this matter I will be advised exclusively by the Chief of Police and the Commander of the RSS forces here.
“Whatever advice they provide to me, I will provide that advice to the President [Charles Savarin] who will make the necessary adjustment…but that matter is exclusively in the purview of the Chief of Police who has responsibility of overseeing the security of the state.
“The curfew can go away today, tomorrow…once people behave themselves,” Skerrit said, adding “once we get a sense of people behaving themselves it will be lifted immediately.
“We really do not want to have a curfew on… we want people to be out helping and cleaning up and so on but we have issues to deal with”.
Police Commissioner Daniel Carbon said that 40 people have been arrested on criminal officers as well as another 48 for breaking the curfew. He said a prison break out on Sunday night resulted in four prisoners escaping.
But he told reporters that two, including one on a murder charge have been recaptured and are under security at the hospital where they had been taken for medical attention.
The police commissioner said while 27 people have been confirmed missing officially, there are also an additional unconfirmed reports of 18 missing.
He said following the hurricane “we have had massive looting” with several businesses in the capital and “to a lesser extent in Portsmouth” have been affected.
He said that while police officers from St Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda were already assisting in security here, more than 100 are expected from Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said he wanted to take the opportunity to dispel rumours that the ports here, under the responsibility of the Trinidad and Tobago contingent were not safe, saying “I wish to dispel those rumours, we have had a Dutch contingent along with the Trinidad and Tobago contingent provding security for the port.”
Skerrit said that the authorities are continuing “the assault today on providing supplies, we have lost of supplies coming in…and as we get them we are not going to store them.
“The instructions from myself is do not store any food at this stage, we have to get food to our people and water throughout the day and throughout the week”.