Barbados’ top security chiefs anticipate the deployment of troops to Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria will be a lengthy one, given the magnitude of the disaster.
Members of the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) and the Regional Security System (RSS) began arriving on the island last Wednesday to contribute to relief efforts following the devastation caused by the category five hurricane on September 18.
Two Coast Guard vessels, the HMBS Leonard C Banfield and HMBS Rudyard Lewis, have journeyed to Roseau to transport relief supplies and return evacuees to Barbados.
BDF Chief of Staff Colonel Glyne Grannum visited the island along with RSS Executive Director Captain Errington Shurland.
Grannum told reporters the recovery process will be “painfully slow, and that is not only regrettable and unfortunate, but it is the reality on the ground”.
Hurricane Maria left extensive infrastructural damage in its wake, with the majority of buildings damaged or destroyed, and roads rendered impassable, having been blocked with fallen trees and other debris, hampering initial efforts to transport relief supplies to communities.
Some areas have also been cut off from the rest of the island, without essential services such as water and electricity.
Maria was the latest major storm to hit the Caribbean this year, following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which also caused significant damage to countries in the northern Caribbean.
Grannum said the extent of damage across the region meant his men and women will be stretched in the coming months.
“We have small forces [and] multidimensional threats such as presented and delivered by Hurricane Maria always bring out a need for multi-skilled, multi-disciplinary personnel. And there has been some strain and there will be some strain going forward in terms of managing the initial deployment and replacing and rotating persons out. So we’re going to have to be very careful about how we rotate the personnel, but that strain is going to be inevitable.
“Fortunately, and I can speak with confidence from the Barbados Defence Force perspective and also from the perspective of the Regional Security System, we train very hard, and whilst the dimensions of the problem of the devastation presented by Hurricane Maria have been unimaginable, the training mentally certainly is a tremendous asset in terms of being able to sustain an operation such as this,” he stated.
Meanwhile Shurland estimated that the task of rebuilding Dominica would go on for several months.
This, he said, meant regional troops could be in the hurricane battered island for several months.
“I quite frankly don’t see this deployment closing off within three to four months because we need to get the citizenry of Dominica back to a state where they can start to rebuild on their own. I think certainly what I’ve observed about resilience of the people on the street, I would say three to four months,” he said.
The RSS chief advised the authorities in the Caribbean to heed lessons from the violent storms, particularly as it pertained to building codes.
Having visited Anguilla after Hurricane Irma devastated the British overseas territory, he said the Anguillans were adopting a different approach to building.
“They use concrete roofs. I think it is high time that we in the region look at a building code to how we construct our buildings, whether our homes or government buildings . . . . Several of the islands have been impacted over the years and I don’t think we can continue to build our homes in [the current] fashion … Preparedness leads to resilience, and resilience in my mind, leads to survival,” Shurland said. The HMBS Leonard C Banfield on Saturday brought home over a dozen Barbadians who were stranded in Dominica after the storm.
Among them was hiker Stephen Atwell, who described the storm as a “life changing” experience.
“I’ve never see anything like it. It was life changing. I was walking around for eleven hours. I would never want to go through anything like that again,” Atwell said.
Also caught in Dominica during the tropical cyclone was Beverly Smith-HInkson, the wife of Barbados Labour Party parliamentarian Edmund Hinkson.
“The structure that we were in, even though it was wall, we could feel it vibrating with the strength of the wind. All we could do it get into the small bathroom that had solid walls all around but when were heard the roof went, we were concerned that it would blow off. Luckily that ceiling held, but water started coming through it was up to our ankles” she told Barbados TODAY, adding that it was an experience she would never forget.