ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Thursday September 21, 2017 – Unable to hold back tears, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit today spoke directly to the public for the first time since Hurricane Maria left his island in shambles.
And he says the Eastern Caribbean island that got a direct hit from the Category 5 hurricane on Monday night needs help now more than ever.
An emotional Skerrit this afternoon appeared on ABS TV in Antigua, where he arrived by helicopter after two days of surveying the damage done in his island which is home to 72,000 people.
He said the entire country had been impacted by the hurricane which brought 160 mile-per-hour winds and heavy rains.
“Every part of the country….everywhere in Dominica has received a serious beating , every part. If it was not by the wind, it was by river coming into your homes and siltation submerging your homes,” he said as he wiped away tears. “It is a miracle that there were not hundreds of deaths.”
The death toll is now at least 15, but many others are missing, Skerrit said.
The Prime Minister, who also lost his roof during the storm, became teary as he talked about the most immediate needs – tarpaulins, water, and food supplies.
“Every village I’ve been to, they are in need of water and more water and baby supplies,” he said.
Communication systems are still down, but there is currently limited cell phone service. The hospital lost its roof and Skerrit said the dialysis machines there are down, the Intensive Care Unit was destroyed, and there is a need for assistance airlifting patients to Martinique.
“One patient who has to receive dialysis everyday walked over 21 miles and I met him at the hospital…Another patient, if he doesn’t get airlifted, he will expire,” he said.
Skerrit acknowledged that it would be a long and difficult road to recovery. But he said he believes Dominicans can pull through.
“I am confident that if we remain united as a people we can bounce back. It will take us some time, but as for myself, I am completely committed to the country in doing what I can to assist in raising the necessary finances and making contacts,” he said.
The Prime Minister will use a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to seek help for his country.
He said while he had no previous intentions of going, he has had a change of heart, and will go on Friday to “speak to the international community, to have meetings with UN Secretary General, to outline Dominica’s situation”.
“Unfortunately, we had to wait for Irma and Maria to let the world understand what we’ve been saying to them for a long time – that we are very vulnerable. We are exposed to the ravages of climate change. We need access to resources to build more resilient societies and countries. We have been playing our part but the extent of the resources required to put in the mitigation systems is beyond us,” he said.