The Barbados Coast Guard is hailing as successful, its just-ended rescue mission to Dominica following the passage of Tropical Storm Erika.
The Coast Guard’s flagship vessel HMBS Trident returned home on Saturday morning following a week-long tour of duty in Dominica, where crew members evacuated 200 residents from the south-eastern village of Petite Savanne, one of the worst affected areas.
“We came here to first get people on the ground and get stores here. That was successful. And two, to lend all the assistance necessary to the Commonwealth of Dominica in helping with whatever they needed at that time. And that we did,” Captain Lt David Harewood told Barbados TODAY.
Harewood and his crew set off for Petite Savanne as soon as they received the requests, but it wasn’t long before they realized it would not be an easy task.
“This first mission that we were deployed on has been hard on the crew, also the extent of the mission itself, especially Petite Savanne, was the arduous part for us . . . trying to rescue those persons that we helped to evacuate from that part of the island where the sea was rolling, and also having so much debris in the water, made it a difficult task.
“The initial thing was to launch from there and then proceed to a safer area on the west coast. But when I looked at it and took into consideration that the time to get from that point and then back to ferry people would have been too long and would have meant leaving some people stranded there overnight again, I made the decision to do it all one time and to go in the area as close as possible.”
He said however, that they did not anticipate this particular mission to be as difficult as it turned out to be.
“Once we were coming up and I recognized the amount of debris that we would be seeing at sea whilst coming in for the first time and I realized that it is worse than we thought. And then once we got a chance to go ashore especially in the town and we saw the damage for ourselves it was like ‘wow’. So at sea it’s one thing but on land that is where a lot of the damage is in itself but we did our best within the conditions that were presented,” he told Barbados TODAY.
It also helped that it was not his first time in Dominica – the Coast Guard has conducted training patrols on the island and other member states of the Regional Security Service (RSS), which has helped them get used to navigating into and out of different ports.
Harewood also had high praise for his team, who got to work as soon as they docked at Woodbridge Bay port just outside the capital, Roseau. They also conducted other rescue missions following Monday’s evacuation.
“Now for my crew, yes they are tired but what we had to do is . . . most of the time once we finish a mission or once we came back we try to find ways to help the crew relax as best as possible as we prepare for the next task. Because it’s not much rest in between the tasks and there’s not much rest between the different missions that we are called to do.”
The Barbados officers were assisted in the near three-hour operation by officers from the Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda Fire Services.
One of the members of the Antigua and Barbuda contingent, Corporal Isiah Viville, is a Dominican who has
lived in Antigua for the past 19 years. He told Barbados TODAY the exercise was a bittersweet experience.
“Coming to my native land it was a sweet experience. However to see the destruction . . . it was devastating. However because of my training and being a professional as a firefighter I had to keep up and do the job.
“The hardest part . . . was not the physical damage but the loss of life and the amount of people that needed to be rescued. I mean nature is nature but when you talk about human life, the loss of human life, this was the hardest part
to accept,” Viville said.
Nine communities have been declared special disaster areas as Dominica continues to clean up after the storm, which has so far claimed more than 30 lives and left an estimated $612.7 million in infrastructural damage.