Sunday 5 July, 2020

Preliminary reports indicate six deaths in Dominica

Communication coming out off hurricane ravished Dominica has been sparse so far with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) receiving reports of six deaths. These numbers are yet to be confirmed.

Dominica was cut off from the rest of the world for the most part of the day, having lost electricity and telecommunications to most, if not all, areas. Some communication eventually became possible via ham radio.

Speaking at a press conference at the Barbados-based CDEMA headquarters this afternoon, Executive Director, Ronald Jackson, explained Hurricane Maria passed over the island in such a way that the eyewall hit the island head on and resulted in extensive infrastructural damage.  

CDEMA has already coordinated the regional response mechanism which will see a number of rapid assessment and search and rescue personnel going into Dominica to provide immediate relief and distribute supplies. 

Jackson said the CDEMA has been in contact with Dominica through the Amateur Radio Association where they received the reports of “six persons who have been classified as dead” and he hopes the numbers do not increase as the damage assessment continues.

Stressing the emergency relief efforts will be hindered by the complex landscape of the island, Jackson said CDEMA will be paying special attention to evacuating residents from areas where land slippage is expected such as Petite Savanne.

He said while Dominica was preparing for and expecting a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, officials are still somewhat surprised at the preliminary reports of damage coming out of Dominica so far. He added CDEMA will be giving thought to enacting policies which focus on intensified preparation efforts throughout the region.  

“Nobody can be prepared for a Category 5 hurricane; it is difficult. It is something that we are going to have to look at - how do we measure preparedness in the face of these kinds of events that you have never experienced before?"

This is the second major weather system to hit the island of Dominica in recent years with Tropical Storm Erika resulting in the death of over 20 people back in 2015, due mostly to landslides caused by heavy flooding.

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