The Barbados Defence Force was preparing to embark on a third mission to Dominica on Saturday, as part of its humanitarian assistance to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The HMBS Leonard C Banfield, the first vessel to be deployed to Roseau after the storm, returned to Bridgetown at approximately 3 a.m. today, and was preparing to return to the island tonight with another shipment of supplies.
Commanding Officer Lt Anderson Goodridge described the first mission as an overall success despite some initial challenges caused by weather conditions in Dominica.
“Once we left Barbados our sea conditions were relatively flat until reaching the area of Dominica. We experienced a lot of debris in the water and also alongside the pier of Dominica. There were very very rough conditions as it relates to surging, and so it was not ideal for the vessel to go alongside and to offload the supplies for relief.
“However, we put things in place where we managed to secure the vessel … and we were able to offload our supplies to the pier and hand over to the relevant personnel and authorities for distribution,” he told reporters.
According to him, priority items at the moment are water and toiletries for the hurricane victims.
“We are actually focusing on reloading the vessel as soon as possible with water and toiletries and also to get the relief back to Dominica as soon as possible. I believe the turnaround time is going to be less than 24 hours,” he said.
Lt Goodridge added, given what he witnessed so far, the rebuilding process will be a long one.
“When we first saw the area of Dominica where we were in Roseau, it was devastating. Roofs and houses gone, some houses just flattened and you just see the remnants of areas where houses were actually built.
“People were on the street; we saw some evidence of looting. Persons are very desperate for water and food. There’s no light on the island at all and so I think it’s a matter of persons getting aid to assist with their rebuilding, most important the supplies that we take down, I think that will be critical within the next couple weeks for the people of Dominica,” he said.
The coast guard evacuated 52 people from the storm-ravaged island on Friday. The group comprised mainly of Barbadians, as well as Americans, Vincentians and St Lucians. Thirteen of the evacuees disembarked in St Lucia.
Goodridge had high praise for his crew who made the initial journey, saying that this year’s Exercise Tradewinds helped prepare them for the current disaster.
“Well they’re more or less holding up pretty good. And I would say the training that we would have done over the past couple months, as you’re aware we did the Tradewinds exercise and so I believe the training will be [relevant] right now as it relates to persons being able to assist in the relief efforts.
“The crew’s morale is very high because indeed to help your fellow man or fellow nation in these times of crisis, it brings a good feeling to you. So, the crew’s morale is high and they are willing to go again and assist where possible,” Goodridge said.
A second coast guard vessel, HMBS Rudyard Lewis, is also in Dominica and is preparing to return shortly.