Dominica’s prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit broke down in tears Thursday as he shared with the region the extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
In an interview with state-owned ABS Television in Antigua, Skerrit lost his composure at times as he reported that many affected residents still did not have a place to sleep, following Maria’s passage on Monday night.
Skerrit, who travelled via helicopter to St John’s to give his first interview since the island was hit by the category five storm, also revealed that 15 people were confirmed dead and another 20 missing and presumed dead.
“Our main preoccupation now is search and rescue, to determine how many are dead, how many are missing, who we need to rescue, providing relief to many parts of the country,” he said.
“We do not have the total count because we have not been to some communities. So far, we would have buried in excess of 15 people. In one village, there are 13 people missing, in another village five people are missing, another community two and we can say they are [dead] because their homes are no longer standing. They’ve been washed away by the rivers,” he added.
“We have not been to many villages but just looking by air at the situation, if there are no fatalities then it’s a miracle . . . especially in the Kalinago villages where the indigenous people reside . . . it would be a total miracle if there are no fatalities in those villages,” the Dominican leader said.
“People were just exposed to the hurricane, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. We have many deaths but it’s just a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths,” he added.
Skerrit said the road to recovery would be a long one for his country which was still trying to bounce back from the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015.
“The country was devastated. Every village in Dominica, every street, every cranny, every person in Dominica was impacted by the hurricane,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have no running water, we have no electricity, we have very limited telecommunication services by WhatsApp,” he said, adding that both Digicel and Flow have been working feverishly to restore services as there was limited cellular coverage.
“Many of our schools have been destroyed. Our main hospital is with no electricity now. We will have to access many villages by sea and by helicopter. It has been brutal. We have never seen such destruction. Unprecedented,” he said.
“It will take us a very long time to get back to pre-Maria state. Every part of the country, either 95 per cent, or 99 per cent or 85 per cent, everywhere in Dominica has received a serious beating.
“If it was not by the wind it was by river coming to your homes and by siltation . . . there were no classes as far as the hurricane was concerned,” Skerrit said while reporting that helicopter services were urgently needed to airlift supplies to the respective communities including eastern and southern communities that have been completely cut off.
The prime minister said he would be travelling to New York on Friday to address the United Nations General Assembly.
“I originally had no intentions of going . . . but I will speak to the international community, to have meetings with UN Secretary General, to outline Dominica’s situation. So, we will not leave any stone unturned. We have all been impacted and we can only make life better.”
“The hospital is being run on an archaic system . . . the dialysis machines are down; the ICU has been destroyed by the hurricane. That is one of our major concerns. Any country that can assist us with airlifting patients to Martinique. One patient who has to receive dialysis everyday walked over 21 miles and I met him at the hospital . . . another patient, if he doesn’t get airlifted, he will expire.”
“We have been playing our part but the extent of the resources required to put in the mitigation systems is beyond
us . . . ”
In a message to Dominicans in the diaspora, Skerrit said the country needs them.
“If there has ever been a time that Dominica needed its people the most, it is now . . . I am here to speak on behalf of the 72-thousand people who call Dominica home – everyone of us need you,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org