For several days after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, Renick Johnson could not contact his family.
Three weeks later, Johnson, who has been living in Barbados for nearly ten years, recalls the helplessness he felt not knowing whether they had survived the Category 5 hurricane, which knocked out the island’s communication systems.
Barbados TODAY met Johnson and his Barbadian wife Nicole, who were at the Coast Guard base, HMBS Pelican this morning delivering supplies for Dominica.
“I’ve never really experienced a hurricane like that. It wasn’t easy; it was very overwhelming. It was a long time before I got in contact with them,” he revealed.
Since service was restored Johnson has been in constant contact with family members, most of whom live in the village of Trafalgar, northeast of the capital, Roseau. He said his main concern was ensuring they had enough food.
“They need food because the stores have been shut . . . . They have access to water because you know, Trafalgar has a lot of rivers. They know how to adapt,” said Johnson, who works at the Courtyard by Marriott.
Johnson witnessed the destruction first-hand on a visit home last week.
“I know Dominica in terms of the greenery [but] right now it looks like Dominica is all burned up. The mountains [are] all brown. I never know Dominica being that kind of way so it wasn’t an easy sight really.
“There were a lot of landslides especially going up to Trafalgar. The roads were impassable but just before I went they were able to push the [debris] across so that vehicles would be able to pass. But it’s only pickup trucks that could go up to Trafalgar.
“Dominica is not the same and it’s gonna take a long time before Dominica is back on its feet again,” Johnson said.
He was, however, comforted by the sight of his relatives in good spirits despite the hurricane’s destruction.
“That is what he spoke to me about while he was there. Seeing all of them together, happy and although they’re going through what they’re going through. The togetherness made it easy and manageable,” Nicole said.
However, the wellbeing of Renick’s mother weighs heavily on his mind, the Johnsons disclosed. The 54-year-old woman underwent heart surgery last year and the couple is worried that she might not be getting the care she needs because of the hurricane.
“She normally gets tests and treatment here. We were quite concerned but through the Coast Guard he could take down a month’s supply of medication for her because she was very ill.
“The family still had to walk for miles from Trafalgar to town, where the only place that’s opened is the pharmacy. They would walk down the road and back up. His mom, she walked until she felt she would faint. It was that hard, and she only told us that earlier this week,” Nicole revealed.
The supplies from the Johnsons as well as other donations from individuals and organisations will be transported to Dominica when the Barbados Coast Guard resumes its mission to the island tonight.
Executive Officer of the HMBS Rudyard Lewis, Sub Lieutenant Shawn Hazelwood, told Barbados TODAY they will also be taking security personnel and artisans to relieve those who were currently in Roseau.
Hazelwood was part of the Barbados Defence Force contingent deployed to Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika, and he says while this current mission has been taxing, they were proud to lend assistance.
“You know you’re doing your duty in terms of helping out fellow Caribbean neighbours so it’s worth it. I didn’t take the opportunity to go around in Dominica but it’s fairly evident even from the coast line that the island has suffered a lot of damage. I just want to thank the citizens of Barbados for their support, on behalf of Dominica,” he said.
International organisations have also been making their contributions through the Coast Guard. One such organization is the Regine Sixt Children’s Aid Foundation – Drying Little Tears.
Foundation member, Colonel Tony Troulan said so far, they had donated an assortment of essentials including blankets, roll mats, solar lanterns, torches, and toys.“They were flown into the island this week, and they’re going to be moved to Dominica tonight or on Sunday on the Barbados Coast Guard. This is the third shipment that we’ve put across,” he stated.