Disaster on Dominica: Tropical Storm Erika Ravages the Nature Island

While enjoying a peaceful summer afternoon in the wilderness of Eastern Ontario, Canada, I half-listened to the 4p.m. news on the national (CBC) radio station on Thursday August 27th.  In this remote area, I had no Internet connection to link me

The storm clouds that threatened one day in Eastern Ontario, Canada were mild in comparison to those that carried devastating rains to Dominica vai TS Erika on Wednesday August 26, 2015.

The storm clouds that threatened one day in Eastern Ontario, Canada were mild in comparison to those that carried devastating rains to Dominica via TS Erika on Wednesday August 26, 2015.

to the outside world. As I focussed on  reading a fascinating book, I thought I heard the word ‘Dominica’ (but pronounced incorrectly) and something about deaths resulting fromTropical Storm Erika. Initially, I assumed that the announcer was talking about the Dominican Republic. The news clip was only 30 seconds long, so I knew that I needed to find out more.  Although I had patchy cell phone service, I called my neighbour on the Nature Island, just to be sure about the place name mentioned on the news.

When I connected with him, he told me there had indeed been heavy rains, there was no water or electricity and the land phone lines were down.  He told me that little else was known at that moment, as people had been instructed to stay at their homes, and the local media had not yet gathered information from around the island.

By that evening, it was impossible to call Dominica – all phone lines were inaccessible.  Instead, I resorted to obtaining detailed descriptions from two sources in Canada: my brother Edwin and my friend Corinne, via cell phone.  They are both familiar with the Nature Island, as Edwin has visited three times and Corinne has lived there for extended periods. When they shared what they had read and seen on the Internet, I immediately felt anxious, scared, sad, helpless and overwhelmed. It was tremendously difficult to process this seemingly unreal situation that had unfolded in my stunningly beautiful adopted country.

They told me that 15 inches of rain had relentlessly pounded the Nature Island for about six hours.  Massive floods islandwide, mudslides, landslides and rockslides demolished most of the infastructure.  Bridges collapsed, trees fell, rivers overflowed, numerous vehicles and some buildings were washed away. Most horrifically, at least 20 people perished and a number of others are still missing.  Villages around the island were completely cut-off from each other and the outside world for a few days.  Petite Savanne, on the island’s southeast coast suffered the most casualties and the majority of its residents have been either air-lifted or taken by coast guard to a temporary shelter in Roseau, the capital city.  The international award- winning Jungle Bay Resort and Spa Dominica, also located in that area was completely destroyed.  Thankfully, quick-thinking staff removed 40+ guests just before the  ‘mountain fell on it’.  They were able to get to a nearby shelter and all were unharmed. In the aftermath of this particular example of complete devastation, 65 employees have suddenly lost their jobs.

There are many more stories, videos and photos online. You need only search the Internet by typing ‘Dominica Tropical Storm Erika’ or looking at Dominica News Online to read about and view shocking scenes of this natural disaster.  The Prime Minister, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit has stated that this tragic event has set the country back 20 years.

It has taken me several days to write this piece, because everytime I started, tears blurred my vision and my hands began to shake.  Although I was scheduled to return to Dominica today, I have delayed my departure until either the Douglas-Charles Airport, whose runway was destroyed, is reopened, or the backlog of travellers who are returning by ferries from other hubs has diminished.

Although international media exposure about this catastrophe  has been minimal since the passage of TS Erika,relief efforts have commenced, with the much appreciated aid from many countries. Most immediately, food, water and medical supplies are the top priority, along with the rebuilding of the airport.  Additionaly, there is much work to be done in order to rebuild Dominica’s infastructure and the properties that were destroyed.  This massive project is expected to cost millions of dollars.

I remain a loyal, long-time resident of Dominica who has benefitted tremendously from an improved quality of life and countless adventures in its pristene environment. I would be most grateful if you would consider making a contribution in cash or kind to assist this exceptional country and its resilient citizens during its time of dire need.  Please click this link from  Visit Dominica.  It contains an overview and particulars about making donations to the Relief Effort at the bottom of the page.  There are certainly other sites soliciting support in several countries, but always ensure that the source is authentic.

No matter where we are in the world, my friend Jude always reminds me that we are

No matter where we are in the world, my friend Jude always reminds me that we are “under the same moon.” Please think of your brothers and sisters in Dominica and lend them a hand, however you can!

As I listen to DBS Radio Dominica while I write, I sense that despite the complete devastation, there is definitely a prevalence of hope, determination, faith  and community spirit.  The Nature Island will return to its former sensational glory, and I will be honoured to be part of the process.  God Bless Dominica!!!

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14 comments on “Disaster on Dominica: Tropical Storm Erika Ravages the Nature Island

  1. Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
    My good friend, Gwen Whitford, has lived on the Caribbean island of Dominica for quite a number of years now, but was in Canada when TS Erika passed through last week. She is safe, but the entire island was devastated by this storm. Please read Gwen’s blog post and click on the links she provides, if you are able to help in any way. Thank you.

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  2. Marilyn Smith says:

    Good to hear from you Gwen. Our hearts go out to all the islanders but I’m sure int’l aid will pour in and repair the infrastructure…it will take time. The pics. we have seen tell the story.

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks Marilyn. Message received! Aid is coming in, but I think it will take millions to repair the damage. Help from individuals, businesses and governments around the world will be very much appreciated. It will be no small task to get the Nature Island back on its feet.

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  3. Vickie Banks says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Dominica. I have been there twice, and it is one of the most beautiful island i been to.. I just found out aboutDominica through your blog. I had no Ideal a storm had hit. I live in the United States and i didn’t hear a word. I;’m so sorry …

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    • gwendominica says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Vickie. Please spread the word if you can. There are so many sad things taking place in the world. I know the media has much to focus on. I intend to contact Canadian journalists to ask them if they can take another look at a tiny pristine island that has been basically destroyed by TS Erika. It may be small, but this precious place must not be overlooked!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Judy MacLean says:

    My heart goes out to you, Gwen. I pray your friends are safe. God bless. xo

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  5. Hi Gwen… if it’s okay with you wanted to share these links re some of our efforts here in Antigua (where, as you know, many of us have familial ties to Dominica) https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/antiguan-an-tee-gan-aid-to-dominica-dom-in-eee-ka-post-erika-how-you-can-help/

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    • gwendominica says:

      Of course, Joanne! I am pleased to post these links on my blog. We must all share information about how to help Dominica, as it is our common goal. Thank you to Antigua, our good friends and neighbours, for your support! 🙂

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  6. lizziemad says:

    Gwen, it is amazing just how quickly repairs are being made. Planes have landed with supplies at Douglas Charles Airport and commercial flights are landing at Canefield. You should be able to return home fairly soon.

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