Solid lessons from Erika’s unasked visit
Like a thief in the night, Tropical Storm Erika sneaked up on Dominica late Wednesday, unleashing its horror: 12 unbroken hours of torrential downpour.
It was a rainstorm unlike any the nature isle has ever seen, causing destruction at virtually every corner of the mountainous Dominica.
Across the waters we look on with collective grief and shock at the disastrous impact, and weep with the loved ones of the 20 citizens who met their untimely deaths.
We still pray earnestly with our Dominican brothers and sisters that the more than 30 missing will be found alive.
Even before the grim report delivered by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit 24 hours after the deluge, the pictures surfacing from Roseau were enough to rouse any right-thinking Caribbean national into action.
Still, we were unprepared for the ominous preliminary report.
Mr Skerrit told the world that Dominica had been “set back 20 years” by the damage inflicted by Erika.
“The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than expected,” the prime minister said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads had been destroyed. “We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica. This is a period of national tragedy,” he lamented.
“Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable.”
The clean-up and rebuilding processes are no doubt daunting, but we aver it is an opportunity for the Caribbean to shine.
Well aware that the battered city of Roseau could easily have been Bridgetown, Kingstown, St John’s or St George’s instead, no effort should be spared to fully restore the region’s most unspoilt location.
No doubt, our small islands, equally battered by the economic recession, will need support from the bigger countries, and a strong lobby is required to secure every international drop of assistance. Still we fully expect the Caribbean to lead the way.
The region must galvanize its resources at every level, however scarce, to help return life in Dominica to normalcy as soon as possible.
We urge that a well-coordinated and effective plan under the guidance of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and other relevant agencies, in partnership with Dominican authorities, be allowed to take effect so that those most vulnerable can receive the assistance intended for them.
We’ve already witnessed the outreach from neighbouring countries, and so heap praises on the almost instant assistance from Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, and even our own Coast Guard that loaded up supplies on Sunday to offer relief to the affected.
The efforts by other humanitarian groups, churches and other emergency personnel have not gone unnoticed.
In the weeks and months ahead, no doubt, the opportunity will come for ordinary citizens to give. May we do so with a big heart.
In the meantime, let us not forget the lessons of deadly Tropical Storm Erika. With just three months to go before hurricane season 2015 wraps up, now is not the time to lapse, regardless of the predictions of forecasters.
This region is vulnerable to any storm activity, and there need not be a Category 5 hurricane to bring us to our knees –– as borne out by Erika that dumped more than 12 inches of rain on Dominica.
Be prepared. The fact is: we won’t be able to stop severe weather, but we can pull together and adapt, if we have an effective Government, a disaster-ready citizenry and the civic will to act. We are smart enough as a society to understand the consequences of inaction.