Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has offered condolences to the government and people of Dominica in light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
At the same time, he is commending Barbadians for “the generosity of spirit” which has been evident ever since the category five storm devastated the fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state on Monday night.
“The readiness with which Barbadians have rallied to the cause of Dominica and have been assembling supplies for sending on to Dominica is to be commended and I want to place on record my gratitude to Barbadians for that public spiritedness and that selflessness, which of course is essentially Barbadian,” Stuart said in a statement released by the Barbados Government Information Service today.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, to communicate with the government of Dominica and to respond in every way we can to the effort to get that sister CARICOM country back on track,” the Prime Minister added.
Maria made landfall on the mountainous island of 72,000 residents on the evening of September 18, pounding Dominica with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour.
So far seven people have been confirmed dead, but prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit has suggested that the figure is likely to rise as they reach out to areas currently cut off since the storm.
“I received with deep sadness and a sense of loss the news or the devastation wroth by Hurricane Maria on the Commonwealth of Dominica and I want on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados to convey condolences to the prime minister and the government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica on the unfortunate loss of life occasioned by the impact of Hurricane Maria,” Stuart said.
“Of course, Barbados has responded readily to the cause of rendering aid to Dominica. We have put at the disposal of Dominica two coastguard vessels for purposes of transporting to that country supplies from Barbadians. We’ve also put at the disposal of Dominica technical personnel, manpower resources as indicated by the Barbados Defence Force and by the [Barbados-based] Regional Security System to ensure that we do our part in helping that country to stabilize in the first instance, and then to start its trek back.”
Stuart noted that just two years ago, as the then chairman of CARICOM, he had to visited Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika had battered the country.
He recalled that on that occasion, Skerrit had indicated that Erika had set Dominica back by about ten years.
“I am aware that in the year 2017, Dominica was still wrestling with the effects of Tropical Storm Erika,” Stuart said, adding that ‘the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria will now put that country in a position, for all practical purposes, where it has to start from scratch.
“Therefore, the thoughts and the prayers of the people of Barbados are with the Government and people of Dominica at this very difficult time in that nation’s history and experience.”
Stuart also made an appeal to the international community to offer the region more concessional aid.
“We are vulnerable countries in this region, and assessing us on the basis of how our economies are doing at any particular time is misleading because all of our gains can be wiped out in a few hours by a serious hurricane as is now the case with Dominica; as was the case some years ago with Grenada, Jamaica and others,” he said.
“Therefore, when we talk about vulnerability and the use of a vulnerability index to determine our eligibility for concessional aid, that is what we are talking about and Hurricane Maria makes the point more eloquently than any of us could have made it.”
Stuart also made the point that when an impact is felt in Florida, Texas or in Louisiana in the United States of America, as was the case with Hurricane Irma, these are local events. Not so for Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours, he said.
“Florida is a local place in the context of the overall United States of America. When a CARICOM country though is impacted by a hurricane there is nothing local about it. It is national both in terms of its echo and in terms of its reverberation. Every single household, every single community is affected when a CARICOM country experiences a hurricane. And therefore, we have to view these things slightly differently that they are viewed or can be viewed in countries much larger than ours,” Stuart stressed.