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Dominica Rallies in Aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika

Roseau, Dominica's capital, in 2006. Photo by Roger W, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Roseau, Dominica's capital, in 2006. Photo by Roger W. CC 2.0.

Tropical Storm Erika ravaged Dominica last week, leaving at least 20 people dead and several more missing. Many parts of the island were badly flooded and a significant degree of critical infrastructure was compromised. The region has been quick to rally though, with regional heads of state contributing to relief efforts, both financially and in terms of rescue teams and equipment. CARICOM issued a formal message of sympathy and support and some European countries have also come to the country's aid.

Netizens were pleased to see that so many countries are offering help:

One blogger, writing at Dominica Weekly, recalled the storm experience:

No water, no electricity and the Internet. Thank God, an old Nokia phone had a radio and we can catch the radio to hear the news: tropical storm Erika in Dominica. From our top of the mountain it was not [looking] scary: heavy rain, thunder, a bit dark and no wind. Nothing special. But it appears somewhere on the island people were dying. Landslides. Rivers overflow their banks, washing away everything in its path. Collapsing bridges, houses to dust, stone fences washed away. Over 35 people dead.

Next day helicopters were flying to get people from isolated areas.

Till now people [help] people to clear houses, roads and schools. Everybody comes together.

The Dominican government has since established a Recovery and Reconstruction Fund to aid in the extensive relief and rebuilding efforts and there have been many pleas for assistance on social media, especially on Twitter, where users have expressed the hope that the situation will attract global attention:

One of the hardest hit areas, Petit Savanne, started its own disaster relief fund. The regional blog Repeating Islands helped draw attention to the situation in this community:

We rarely posts any appeals for donations, but I am posting this one after seeing photos and film of the devastation in Petite Savanne, Dominica, after Erika.

The people of Petite Savanne–many of whom either work at the Jungle Bay Resort or provide the resort with the locally produced fruits, vegetables, natural oils, and rum that make it such a community-based enterprise–are among the most generous and caring people I know. I count many of them as dear friends.

The images of the devastation of their community are heartbreaking.

Please help if you can, as any amount, however small, could bring great relief to the community.

Officials have since evacuated Petit Savanne, where roughly 13 people are missing and feared dead. There was also a handful of other rural communities that have been declared “special disaster areas.”

On Facebook, Dominica News Online has issued regular updates about the post-storm situation in different parts of the island, linking to users’ photos and videos of the devastation Erika left in her wake. One member of the Dominican diaspora, Peter Azille, sent the following message to his compatriots via the Dominica News Online website:

As I looked at television, social media, scores of photos via WhattsApp [sic] and listening to DBS Radio, it was heart-wrenching to see and hear of the terrible loss of innocent lives and the utter destruction of homes, vehicles and public infrastructure on our fair homeland. […]

As I join with other patriotic Dominicans and friends of Dominica […] to mobilize relief supplies to send to all Dominicans, I am reminded of the belief that I have always held dearly, that we have one Dominica; that we are one people under God and that we are our Brother’s keeper. Our love, respect and care for each other must always eclipse every other sentiment. Hurricane Erika did not discriminate; it unleashed its fury on every Dominican family. We must ensure that there is not discrimination in the distribution of the relief and redevelopment supplies provided by the regional and international communities and by Dominicans and friends in the diaspora.

The redevelopment of Dominica is going to be the shared responsibility of all Dominicans at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the authorities have been working on trying to get the country's main airport up and running again, and the Ministry of Health has been finding ways to get critical treatment to citizens who need special care, such as dialysis patients and diabetics.

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