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Storm sets Caribbean country back 20 years

DEVASTATION: A scene from Dominica after the island was battered by Erika

THE PRIME minister of storm-battered Dominica has urged citizens of the small Caribbean island to take the lead in the reconstruction effort following the devastation by Tropical Storm Erika.

Appearing in a televised broadcast, the country’s leader Roosevelt Skerrit declared that the island has been set back 20 years by the damage inflicted by the storm.

 The storm hit the small country of 72,000 people last Wednesday (Aug 26), producing 38 centimetres of rain on the mountainous island that triggered floods and mudslides before heading north towards the island of Hispaniola – home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Skerrit said: “We need to focus on the task ahead and to brace ourselves as Dominicans to lead the charge because we are the ones who are going to have to lead the reconstruction. People will come to help us, but they must not be ahead and we are at the back.”

Sharing her account with The Voice, Tajha Myer-Ferreira, from east London, recalled the terror that ensued during the storm as she visited the island with relatives.

She said: “I was sleeping when the storm hit. We thought we would just sleep through it until a family friend came and advised us to leave.”

Seeking refuge on a veranda, the 24-year-old became further displaced as water continued to flood the house. She only managed to escape by climbing on the backs of fellow survivors who were seeking higher ground.

“One of the guys in the area was taken by the water and drifted out as far as the sea which had massive waves. He could have died but thankfully a guy saved him. I couldn't believe what I was seeing,” the frightened visitor recalled.

APPEAL: Skerrit

The devastation has left Myer-Ferreira and her family stranded in the small Caribbean country due to the extensive damage to the airport.

She added: “[We’ve faced] no electricity, no water for nearly two days and trying to get our flights sorted with the help of my sister in London. I'm thankful that my family is safe and can't wait to get home."

With the death toll currently at 20, rescue crews are continuing to search for more than 50 people still unaccounted for.

Officials are working to evacuate roughly 1,000 people from the town of Petite-Savanne because of fears of new landslides, said Don Corritte, director of the office of disaster management.

Evacuations were carried out by boat because of damage to roads and bridges.

FLOODS: Dominica’s capital Rouseau

Skerrit said all the residents of the town in the country's southeast would have to be evacuated. He declared disaster status for nine areas, calling the extent of the devastation “monumental".

“Access by road to these communities is impossible," he said, adding that these towns “are cut off from the rest of the country".

Pledging its support, the West Indies Cricket Board [WICB] has committed to “contribute in any way possible”.

Dominica is the home of WICB Vice President Emmanuel Nanthan and the base for the newly-formed Windward Islands Volcanoes franchise, which participates in the WICB’s Professional Cricket League.


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