20 confirmed dead
Dominica counts the cost of Tropical Storm Erika
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has confirmed 20 dead and several missing following the passage of Tropical Storm Erika on Thursday morning, as details have begun to emerge of the severity of the damage caused by the fifth weather system of the Atlantic hurricane season.
One of the hardest-hit areas, the southeastern village of Petite Savanne, suffered landslides and tremendous loss of life, including an entire family who was swept away from their house.
Just outside the capital, Roseau, in the Bath Estate community, two brothers were also swept away by raging waters.
In an address to the nation tonight, Skerrit said in the hours and days ahead, “respective Parliamentary Representatives will be meeting with families to discuss and formalize arrangements for burial of those who succumbed, as well as help provide adequate care for the injured.”
Skerrit spent Friday meeting with disaster management officials and touring the island by helicopter to assess the damage caused by the storm.
He told the nation the extent of the devastation is “monumental” and far worse than expected, with some communities still cut off from the rest of the country.
“There is extensive damage across our small island after floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable,” Skerrit said.
“The visual damage I saw today, I fear may have set our development process back by 20 years. I will not attempt tonight to affix a dollar value, but it is substantial.”
Skerrit expressed gratitude for the independent assessments currently being carried out by several regional and international agencies, saying he looked to them “to inform this country and the world, the magnitude of the rebuilding process that will be necessary to return Dominica to normalcy.”
The Prime Minister also raised fears that Erika would reverse the island’s recent economic gains.
“You will recall that in my most recent budget address I informed the nation that Dominica was able to register real growth of 3.4 per cent in 2014. This was no doubt due to the heavy investments we have been making in infrastructural development since 2000. Most recently we have upgraded the Douglas-Charles Airport, developed the highway leading from this airport to Roseau, and upgraded the Roseau to Portsmouth highway.
“Now Tropical Storm Erika has inflicted heavy damage to these key facilities and a range of secondary roads that are essential for efficient communication and boosting our export drive,” he said.
Skerrit disclosed that he had invited all 21 elected Parliamentarians to a special Cabinet meeting from 8:00 tomorrow morning to chart the way forward for the country.
“The voters of Dominica elected 21 persons to represent their best interests and it is those 21 individuals who shall form the national reconstruction advisory committee,” he noted.
Dominica has already begun receiving assistance from its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours and regional institutions.
The Caribbean Development Bank today confirmed a US $200,000 Emergency Relief Grant for the island in the wake of the storm.
The funds were made available under the CDB’s Disaster Management Strategy and Operational Guidelines, and aims to assist the country’s recovery efforts.
Meanwhile, regional carrier Liat today announced changes to its schedule as a result of the closure of the Douglas-Charles airport and the cancellation of several flights over the last three days.
“The airline will operate an additional 29 services into Guadeloupe over the next week, to facilitate movement into and out of the island,” a statement from Liat said.
One airline official told Barbados TODAY that several passengers trapped in Dominica because of the airport closures would likely include Barbadians, but the official was unable to immediately confirm the names or numbers. The official added that LIAT was exploring several options to try to get its passengers in and out of the country.
“There are people who are looking to go to Dominica, people in Dominica who are looking to connect at other airports [to catch international flights],” said the official who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.
“[LIAT] is looking to re-route people to other ports, namely Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia, and have them take ferries.”
According to the official, the storm “will have a major financial impact” on the airline but it was too early to give figures.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has mobilized two helicopters into Dominica to conduct air reconnaissance and support damage assessment teams, with the help of the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and France.