A report from Antigua’s Observer.
The Barbados based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is reporting that at least six people were killed when a powerful Hurricane Maria slammed into the island on Monday.
The regional disaster management agency says the storm has left behind billions of dollars in damages.
While communication has been limited, CDEMA’s Executive Director, Ronald Jackson told reporters that amateur radio operations said the storm had claimed six lives.
He said based on historical knowledge of Dominica and the fact that the eye of storm swept across the island from southeast to northwest, there would be “billions of dollars” in damage, with virtually every one of the estimated 70,000 population directly or indirectly impacted.
So severe is the anticipated damage that Jackson said Dominicans may have to be evacuated by sea.
According to Jamaica , the agency has identified several coastal and internal communities around the island that are of particular concern, including the indigenous Kalinago community in the east of the island.
Meanwhile, Principal Advisor to Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Hartley Henry, on Wednesday relayed a message outlining the dire situation in Dominica following the passage of Hurricane Maria.
Henry, who spoke with Skerrit via Satellite phone, said there’s an urgent need for helicopter services to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter.
According to Henrym the main general hospital took a beating, compromising patient care.
“Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that a very urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials. Little contact has been made with the outer communities but persons who walked 10 and 15 miles towards the city of Roseau from various outer districts report total destruction of homes, some roadways and crops.”
Concerning the death toll, he said while it is difficult to confirm,the Prime Minister fears that it will “rise as he wades his way into the rural communities today, Wednesday”.
Henry said the Prime Minister is hoping to make contact with ABS Radio in Antigua on Wednesday to speak directly to the outer world as to the state of Dominica and its urgent needs.
And in St. Lucia, the Red Cross has expressed concern over a communication blackout in hurricane devastated Dominica, amid emerging reports of at least six confirmed deaths resulting from the storm.
The Director General of the Red Cross in St. Lucia told reporters on Tuesday that the organisatuio has been unable to obtain any information despite several attempts to contact officials there.
“This is the first time in my experience – not hearing anything, so everybody is really concerned that it might be very, very bad,” she stated.
“Several companies in St Lucia with business interests in Dominica have not been able to contact their people. Our regional office out of Trinidad was not able to assist because all communication lines in Dominica are down,” Gaillard explained.
According to the Red Cross official, the information being obtained from Ham Radio Operators is very ‘sketchy’.
Gaillard noted that a lot of the operators lost their antennas, which further hampers communication.
But there were radio reports Tuesday that some Dominica Ham Radio Operators had been monitored by fellow operators in the United States with news of six confirmed deaths.
Ham Radio Operator Julian Antoine, residing in King Hill, Cincinnati Ohio told Dominica Radio Wice QFM 95.5 which shifted it broadcast to Texas after the storm, that he had heard reports of five fatalities is the isolated village of Dos d’ane in the islands north and another in Morne Prospere. But said these were not even the areas hardest hit.
He quoted a ham operator resident outside Alanta Georgia carrying the sign in name Juliette 73 Yankee Hotel (J73YH) on a radio relay as saying that there was significant damage and flooding in the capital Roseau.
“Trees are down in every direction, roofs of homes blown off, and others destroyed completely and on my street between my house and my church, there is absolute devastation, with the roof of a community centre sent flying,” the Roseau based ham operator reported.
He said another Amateur operator who was relaying via J73Charlie Charlie confirmed that the Police Station in Castle Bruce was destroyed along with sections of the main hospital and that he had also heard about the deaths in Dos d’ane, and people were walking around dazed, “that’s the term he used.”
They also reported widespread destruction in Dominica’s second northern town of Portsmouth.
“I asked him on a scale of one to ten what he thought of the level of devastation, and he said 9,” he told the radio station.
“I was there during Hurricane David in 1979 and man it was horrible and now I am hearing that this time it is a lot worse,” he noted.
The first death attributed to Hurricane Maria was recorded in Gaudeloupe when during the passage of the storm Monday a three is reported to have fallen on an individual while there are three persons missing.
Dominica remains cut off from the rest of the world since the storm struck late Monday into Tuesday, despite efforts by a CDEMA team to fly into Roseau using a Venezuelan helicopter.
The mission failed when they were told that due to the intensity of the wind, would not allow the chopper to land safely.
An attempt by Trinidadian authorities to embark on a rescue and rehabilitation mission was similarly aborted.
However, despite the uncertainty the Saint Lucia Red Cross official said her organisation has been collecting non-perishable items, water and medication to send to the island hopefully by Thursday.
“Our inability to communicate affects our organisation in its efforts to determine the extent of the damage to the Island and its needs.
“We are hoping to have the first consignent of goods shipped to Dominica by Thursday, as long as vessles can be accommodated,” Gaillard disclosed.