Dominica, the Nature Isle, bent but not broken after Tropical Storm Erika

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The Commonwealth of Dominica is known for having a river for each day of the year. Sadly, this week it also became known as the Caribbean island devastated by Tropical Storm Erika.

Dominicans awoke Thursday 27 August morning to sights not seen since almost to the day in 1979 when Hurricane David hit the island. Twelve inches (305 mm) of rain fell in less than 12 hours. Rivers swelled and overflowed their banks, bridges fell, trees and cars were all washed away in the raging waters. Some buildings toppled off of foundations and were washed away in the strong currents, while in others walls fell due to the force of the raging waters.

Hearts broke.

 

Most devastatingly 31 persons are confirmed dead and some are still missing. Presently some areas are without electricity and/or water while others have had to be evacuated due to safety concerns for the residents.

Dominica is hurting.

During and after the passing of Tropical Storm Erika, CaribVET has been in constant contact with the Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Reginald Thomas via WhatsApp. This is what he experienced in his own words.

Day 1 (27 August)

“Hi colleagues Erika has really roughed up Dominica. Serious infrastructural damage”

“Man we got water from 2am nonstop. Bridges gone. People missing. Roads blocked”.

“Rain stopped for now but forecast says expect lots more rain. Keep praying”.

“Tomorrow would mark the anniversary of Hurricane David 1979, what a thing”

“We have lost some cattle and livestock structures and poultry. I expect loss of livestock to rise. Will be out tomorrow”

“Ok later no electricity, phone going to die”

5 hours later…

“Guys I have driven through the city. It is bad. We are still getting news of deaths and people missing. Rains have stopped though”

“Guys this day we will never forget”.

“It is very bad”

“I can’t explain to you guys the true damage to my country. I don’t know how to explain”.

“Dominica is not the same”

“All our roads we just fixed all gone. Bridges gone. Multiple deaths”.

“I am heart broken.”

“Only tears I can shed.”

Day 2 (28 August)

Dr. Thomas shared with the “Erika” WhatsApp group bleak photos, roads blocked by trees and rocks as if the roads were old rivers making them impassable, devastated farms, some animals alive walking among other less fortunate ones, some farms and animals completely gone and replaced by a vastness of sand, mud, and other debris.

“Starting assessment but it’s hard, we have limited access and no communication in most areas”

Regarding a poultry farm of more than 2000 birds they visited: “We are going to do a mass hole and sacrifice the lives ones and distribute”

Day 3 (29 August)

“We are still trying to make contact with some officers.”

“We are trying to organize relief.”

“We are not yet able to assess damages yet.”

“There is no water in the pipe. It is bad. People squabbling to get water for cleaning and well people are buying out water”

“We have Standard Operation Procedures for storms but this is nothing like we have seen before. We don’t know where to start with. We have limited communication still.”

The picture above shows a mixed fish and sheep farm with some ducks... completely destroyed "it used to be a lovely mixed farm. All gone".

 

Day 8 (03 September)

“Just visited an evacuation camp. It is heart wrenching seeing my people totally helpless”

 

After Erika passed CaribVET contacted all its members from Dominica. We were quite successful and found that they were all safe, however stunned.

The Caribbean hears your plea for help Dominica. Resources are coming, some have already arrived. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) was on the ground by Day 2. Trinidad sent two helicopters, Venezuela has sent a helicopter along with resources. The Caribbean Development Bank has given an emergency loan while China, the European Union and St. Kitts have donated money. Montserrat sent their ferry to Antigua to transport sixty Dominicans that were stuck in Antigua at no cost to the passengers. Along with the Dominicans, some members of Antigua’s defense fore were also transported to Dominica. Barbados’ Coast Guard and some firemen are on the ground in Dominica rescuing persons cut off from the rest of the island. They also took water and food supplies with them. CARICOM and French territories have already sent resources. Martinique and Guadeloupe sent a helicopter to assist along with firemen and police officers. They also sent earth moving vehicles to assist in road clearance and their water company donated 30000 liters of potable water.

It should also be noted that a number of other initiatives are being undertaken in each Caribbean country and territory that we haven't reported here. Humanitarian aid is also coming through NGOs and Clubs, (eg. Montserrat Rotary Club), from various Caribbean countries to send nonperishable food stuff, clothes and water.

Dominica, we stand with you in your hour of need. You are in our hearts and prayers.

 

Photo credit: Reginald Thomas, Veterinary Services, Dominica. Quotes and photos published with his authorization.

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