Trinidad can learn from Dominica’s hurricane recovery


Stabroek News quotes a Trinidad Guardian report that points out how well Dominica has man­aged to “bounce back” from ex­ten­sive dev­as­ta­tion by Hur­ri­cane María. 

The hur­ri­cane fore­cast for 2019 is just as bad as the fore­cast of 2018 and with nine to 15 named storms ex­pect­ed to form in the At­lantic this year, of­fi­cials from the Com­mon­wealth of Do­mini­ca wants the rest of the Caribbean to pre­pare. Guardian Me­dia vis­it­ed the is­land last week and mar­velled at how Do­mini­ca has man­aged to bounce back from ex­ten­sive dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Maria, which rav­aged the is­land in Sep­tem­ber 2017, killing 65 peo­ple.

Many of the bod­ies were nev­er found, and some of the homes bat­tered by the force of the hur­ri­cane re­main roof­less. Some of the moun­tains still har­bour rem­nants of de­bris but Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment, Cli­mate Re­silience, Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment and Ur­ban Re­new­al Joseph Isaac be­lieves this year the is­land is bet­ter pre­pared the hur­ri­cane sea­son.

Back in 2017, the res­i­dents like Dec­i­ma Sharplis, own­er of Sea­world Guest House, were not pre­pared for a Cat­e­go­ry Five Hur­ri­cane. Sharplis said she could re­mem­ber run­ning around her home se­cur­ing items be­tween 11 pm to 3 am while the hur­ri­cane ham­mered the is­land. “Maria was the most hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence I ever had. I will nev­er for­get when I went down­stairs to se­cure some stuff and I saw these big waves com­ing at me. I had to run,” Sharplis said. She added that her hus­band was in Portsmouth and a door slammed on his feet. He had to be flown to Guade­loupe for med­ical treat­ment.

Sharplis said many peo­ple re­fused to be re­lo­cat­ed be­fore Maria and af­ter the hur­ri­cane passed, their bod­ies were nev­er found. With an ac­tive hur­ri­cane sea­son in the fore­cast, Sharplis said she was bet­ter pre­pared this year. [. . .]

Lil­lian Theophil, of Granbay South, said Hur­ri­cane Maria had pre­pared them for the worst. “It was like a de­mon had come in­to our is­land and every­thing we had was gone,” she said. Theophil said they got more op­por­tu­ni­ties af­ter Maria. “More peo­ple knew about our is­land and they of­fered us more op­por­tu­ni­ties. Peo­ple start­ed to in­vest here and we got more jobs with the re­build­ing,” she added.

There are over 70,000 peo­ple liv­ing in Do­mini­ca and since Maria, tourist ar­rivals have gone back to pre-Maria lev­els.

Oth­er is­lands must pre­pare

Isaac [said] in an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia [that] oth­er Caribbean is­lands must use the ex­pe­ri­ence of Hur­ri­cane Maria to pre­pare for the 2019 hur­ri­cane sea­son. He rec­om­mend­ed that hur­ri­cane cen­tres be es­tab­lished across all coun­tries. “Cer­tain crit­i­cal pieces of equip­ment in hos­pi­tals should be up­grad­ed so they could be pow­ered by so­lar en­er­gy so that in the event of a pow­er cut, peo­ple will not die. The key thing is prepa­ra­tion at the grass­roots lev­el be­cause when a hur­ri­cane strikes it is those com­mu­ni­ties that are af­fect­ed,” Isaac said.

He added that ba­sic re­sources must be pro­vid­ed to the peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties. “The com­mu­ni­ty needs to mo­bilise be­fore a hur­ri­cane and you need cer­tain pieces of equip­ment in place through­out the is­lands so that if a hur­ri­cane strikes, you will be able to clear rivers, drains and move de­bris,” he said. He al­so said that at the house­hold lev­el peo­ple must be­gin get­ting ready as well.

“Med­ical fa­cil­i­ties must al­so pre­pare us­ing so­lar en­er­gy so that dial­y­sis equip­ment can be pow­ered.” He said af­ter Maria, the Do­mini­can Gov­ern­ment put in place a Na­tion­al Dis­as­ter Plan in place.

“So­ci­ety must be hyped about prepa­ra­tion for hur­ri­canes,” not­ing that the psy­cho-so­cial im­pact af­ter the hur­ri­cane was crit­i­cal.

Ex­press­ing thanks to the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for as­sist­ing Do­mini­ca dur­ing its time of need, Isaac said his gov­ern­ment was will­ing to as­sist the T&T gov­ern­ment with hur­ri­cane readi­ness.

He ex­plained that be­fore Maria struck, there were over 75,000 vis­i­tors per year in Do­mini­ca but af­ter the hur­ri­cane, tourism de­clined. In 2019, vis­i­tor ar­rivals went back up to 70,000. Isaac not­ed that Do­mini­ca was now on a quest to plant one mil­lion trees by 2021. He ex­plained that 5,000 hur­ri­cane resilient homes are al­so be­ing built.

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