Neighbors helping neighbors and countries helping Dominica is what is taking place now on the mountainous, volcanic island of Dominica in the eastern Caribbean, home to 72,000 people, which appeared to be torn apart by Tropical Storm Erika on Aug. 26.
According to published reports, the landscape is pockmarked by ravaged shores, swollen rivers, uprooted trees, toppled bridges and washed-out villages; in less than five hours, Erika’s winds and 15 inches of rain brought massive flooding and mudslides that destroyed homes, left the two airports inoperable, created floodwaters that pulsed through the streets of the capital city of Roseau and caused a death toll that now stands at 20; more than 50 residents were missing.
In a weekend address to Dominicans (pronounced Dom-in-EEK-ans, compared with Do-MIN-ic-ans who live in the Dominican Republic), Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described the devastation as “monumental” and estimated that Erika’s damage could set the country’s development back 20 years.
“The damage is far worse than expected. We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica,” he said.
Skerrit said he was reaching out to members of the Dominican diaspora "to make a special effort to raise funds to send to relatives here. Having such money circulating in Dominica helps boost the local economy."
The prime minister also appealed to member nations of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to the Caribbean Community and international donor agencies for help.
Even as Skerrit appealed for international aid, help began arriving from the neighboring islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which sent rescue workers over on ferries to help reopen roads in remote communities.
The Rotary Club of St. Kitts collected contributions of food items that were shipped to Dominica over the weekend. The government of Antigua & Barbuda already committed $100,000 to relief efforts, and teams from its defense force were expected to arrive in Dominica on Monday, according to the Antigua Observer.
USAID is providing humanitarian assistance totaling $50,000 for disaster supplies and is working with the Dominica Red Cross to provide relief items to citizens in nine hard-hit areas identified by the government of Dominica.
The U.K. Department of International Aid is sending a British ship with relief supplies, including bedding, fresh water, shelters, torches, stretchers and a Lynx Mk 8 helicopter.
The L’Express Des Iles ferry service from Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia is operating; the smaller Canefield Airport is operational for helicopter and small aircraft use, and seaports remain functional and open.
The status of hotels and resorts varies according to location. Some properties are beginning their annual fall closure early in an effort to clean up and regroup for the fall/winter travel season.
Hiking trails are being assessed for accessibility and safety.
Those in Dominica with go-fast boats are transporting rescuers and people attempting to reach stranded relatives. Volunteers are pitching in to help carry food, water and clothing to those cut off cut off by the storm.
More than 80% of the island lost electricity and water supplies.
On Sunday, the government ordered the evacuation of more than 1,000 inhabitants from the small town of Petite-Savanne on Dominica’s southeast coast for fear of more mudslides.
The Caribbean Development Bank offered a $200,000 emergency relief grant under its disaster management plan. Several fundraising sites have been established to assist with relief efforts; details are available here. Other resources include the officially endorsed Dominica Government GoFundMe account; New York diaspora relief efforts; the Red Cross of Dominica.
Dominica tourism officials are working with island visitors to provide updates. Visitor can email [email protected] or call (767) 448-2045
Dominica, whose tagline and slogan has long been known as the Nature Isle, is surrounded by prime dive sites and crisscrossed by miles of hiking trails, geothermal springs and more than 365 rivers.