A team of regional disaster management officials was en route to Dominica today to assess the damage caused by Tropical Storm Erika, after widespread flooding devastated the island.
The meteorological office reported 12 inches of rainfall pounded the island within a three-hour period this morning, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
Four people were reported dead, and several others missing in various communities, including the east, and the capital Roseau.
Throughout the island, rivers burst their banks, triggering severe flooding and causing infrastructural damage. The main airport, Douglas-Charles Airport in the northeast has been closed due to flooding, and regional airline Liat has cancelled all flights into and out of the island until further notice.
Roads were rendered impassable by fallen trees, debris and rocks; businesses remained closed as government advised residents to remain indoors. Eighty percent of the island has been without electricity, and the water supply has been cut.
“What I’ve seen thus far it’s just a sight to behold. (Erika) really, really mashed up the country. People are trying to do some mopping up but it’s gonna take a long while,” local journalist Carlisle Jno Baptiste told Barbados TODAY.
The deluge came two days ahead of the 36th anniversary of Hurricane David, the worst storm in Dominica’s history to date.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson told Barbados TODAY they have sent two helicopters to Dominica to conduct air reconnaissance as well as support damage assessment teams.
“We’ve managed to mobilize those through the government of Trinidad and Tobago as well as through the government of France through Martinique and the (other) French territories in the Caribbean.”
Another team is also expected to be deployed tomorrow to assist with the assessment on the ground as well as the coordination of the emergency response.
“This is primarily to ensure that we can fine-tune and better define the needs and then also respond to those needs.
“At the moment we do not have specific priorities beyond search and rescue, as well as medical evacuation,” Jackson said.
He disclosed that CDEMA had been in talks with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), “who has responded by a note to the government indicating additional sources of emergency recovery support that can be called on to assist Dominica’s recovery and reconstruction activities”.
According to Jackson, the CDB will disburse an initial grant of $200,000 to cover immediate relief needs, including water supplies.
“But beyond that there are amounts that can be made available in terms of an emergency loan for infrastructure clean up. And beyond that then it goes into more reconstruction support,” Jackson said.
He added that based on its analysis, and given the projected path of the storm, CDEMA expected most of the countries in Erika’s path to be outside of the wind field of the storm, which would have caused mostly wind damage, “but we did recognize that there were trailing rains under deteriorating conditions” being left in its wake.
“And so we anticipated rain in the Eastern Caribbean and had some expectations that countries would have been affected. The extent of which certainly we could not judge, but recognizing a little bit of the history of Dominica over the last four to five years, we did expect that if there had upwards of four to five inches [of rain] in a short possible time, given the antecedent conditions, that there could be flooding.”
Jackson said although Dominica had not formally asked for external support, they made an unofficial verbal request to the regional agency.
“The entire mechanism has been deployed in the field, and we anticipate a formal request. But based on the arrangement with their National Disaster [Management] Office and the CDEMA Coordinating Unit, the national disaster coordinator and the acting prime minister did in fact speak to this office today to request some additional support with air assets for reconnaissance, which we have provided them with, as well as additional support with personnel to help with collecting information on the ground,” he said.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) today said it would mobilize regional and international support for its member state.
“As small island states we have common vulnerabilities to climatic issues and weather systems which impact on all our Member States, and although limited in our own resources we are strengthening our response to Dominica through dialogue towards a coordinated response from agencies such as National Emergency Management Organizations, CDEMA, ECLAC [Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean] and USAID [United States Agency for International Development],” the St Lucia-based Commission said.
The latest advisory from the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said Erika was moving westward at 12 mph, and was heading towards the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. (MCW)