Flags were flying at half-mast on all government buildings today as Dominica began observing two days of national mourning for the people who lost their lives in Tropical Storm Erika.
The death toll has risen to 31, one week after the weather system swept across the island, wreaking havoc on infrastructure.Thirty-five people are still missing, including 20 from the south eastern village of Petite Savanne, which was the worst hit area.
In an address to the nation this afternoon to mark the occasion, President Charles Savarin recalled the events of last Thursday morning, saying “no one expected that a tropical storm with winds of less than 50 miles per hour would have unleashed such a downpour to cause death and destruction on a scale comparable to, and in some locations, worse than that caused by Hurricane David [in 1979].”
Savarin said while many citizens “watched their life’s work shattered and brought to rubble before their very eyes”, all was not lost.
“That great Dominican spirit of coming together in times of adversity and helping each other to carry his load, has once again come alive in all our communities. It is that spirit that caused us to rise from the ruins of Hurricane David, and that same spirit will cause us to rise from the rubble of Tropical Storm Erika,” he said.
Savarin also commended the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader for coming together to work to rebuild the country in this time of crisis.
“I commend the humility and magnanimity of spirit demonstrated by the Honourable Prime Minister who was quick to realize that the rebuilding and restoration of Dominica required a united effort on all fronts, and invited the Parliamentary opposition to join the Cabinet Advisory Committee to chart the way forward for the country. It was equally magnanimous of the leader of the opposition to accept that invitation.”
He also praised citizens for maintaining law and order after the disaster.
“Our citizens have confronted this crisis with calm, patience and maturity. Therefore it has not been necessary to suspend any of the basic rights and freedoms we enjoy under the Constitution,” he said, in reference to calls for the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the storm.
He also hailed “the overwhelming response” of regional governments and the international community to Dominica’s plight, saying their positive response in this time of need “has assured us that we will not walk the road of national recovery alone, for they will be at our side”.
Savarin called on the able-bodied men and women to take on the task of rebuilding with “a renewed passion and determination” while the nation mourns. (MCW)