On the Ground in Dominica: Recovery After Tropical Storm Erika is in Full Swing!

Through the taxi window, the mountains of Dominica look as lush and stunning as ever. But benath them, it's a different matter!

Through the plane window, the mountains of Dominica look as lush and stunning as ever. But beneath them, it’s a different matter, thanks to TS Erika!

Readers may be wondering about my return to Dominica from Canada, so I will briefly report here.  Unfortunately, I do not have many photos to include  at this time, but you can always scroll through Dominica News Online or through the Facebook page of Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica for visuals

When I arrived at Douglas-Charles airport on Tuesday afternoon, September 29th, it was truly a beautiful day on the Nature Island. The flight from Barbados was smooth and uneventful.  My seat companion , who was headed home to St. Kitts, told me he had never flown in to Dominica before.  When he gazed out the window at the slopes filled with coconut palms, he gasped in amazement.  He had never seen so many of those trees before.  I told him that my wish would be to partake of their delicious jelly coconut water, if they hadn’t all fallen off of the trees during Erika!

When I disembarked from the aircraft, I turned around slowly on the tarmac. The cleared runway stood out starkly against the rocks, broken pavement and debris that lined it.  I proceeded to take a few photos, but was quickly informed by an airport security guard who ran over to me that photographs were prohibited.  While the officer did not demand that I remove the shots from my camera, I assured her that I would not publish them.  Therefore, please refer to the sites above to get a sense of the rapid recovery underway at Dominica’s main airport.

I think everyone else in the shuttle taxi must have seen the devastation before, as I seemed to be the only one who loudly exclaimed shock and dismay as we travelled through the mountainous interior en route to Roseau. The reality of this startling situation really hit home when we encountered not one, but two landslides along the roadway that traverses the Central Forest Reserve. The driver skillfully manouevered the single lane of broken rocks one moment only to be immediately delayed at another larger slide.  We waited on the road for about 20 minutes while a large caterpillar cleared the blocked area. On that dry, sunny day, I  realized that it did not have to be raining for the ground to ‘give-way’ and that the earth must still  be  unstable.  Right then and there, I decided that I would be Roseau-bound for a while, as I did not care to encounter falling rocks on any of my forays!

As we moved along, I stared in horror when we rounded the sharp turn and the seemingly-rickety bridge over the River

The taxi was moving too fast fro me to capture the work being done to restore the road and river banks located near RiverStone Bar and Grill in Bells, Dominica. Thankfully, the establishent was not damaged extensively.

The taxi was moving too fast for me to capture the work being done (background) to restore the road, bridge and river banks located near RiverStone Bar and Grill in Bells, Dominica. Thankfully, the establishent was not damaged extensively.

Laurent, which passes very near to the RiverStone Bar and Grill, one of my favourite places in Dominica.  The river bed looked as if it had expanded to four times its size, and huge boulders covered the terrain as far as I could see. Instantly, I was alarmed and wondered why I had not heard about any storm-related problems at this popular establishment, which is not visible from the roadside.  Later that evening,  I checked RiverStone’s facebook page, and was subsequently assured by propietor Maxine that all is well and  that they will reopen for business very soon, after completing some renovations.

As we headed west and approached the  Springfield area, I could see that the main road had been badly eroded, and at one point, there was a clear view of the Springfield River from the ‘highway’, which was never there before.  When we finally reached the West Coast road heading into Roseau, I gazed up into the mountains, now east of me, and was stunned at the changed landscape due to numerous  gigantic landslides in the interior.

While the appearance of Roseau was more or less the same to me, I was reminded of the flooding – and then I noticed the bridges across the Roseau River.  There is much work to be done and two of the three are closed at the moment, causing considerable congestion and a necessary re-routing of traffic during rush hours.

When I was almost home, I again gasped when I saw the rocky expansion of the banks of the once tiny river at Castle Comfort.  Mind you, the volume of water has returned to normal.  I was relieved that all was well at my home, thanks to my good neighbours who were mentioned in this post.

The weather is very hot and steamy.  Abnormally high temperatures are affecting all of the Caribbean islands. At this writing, there are no hurricanes in the forecast, but the season does continue until November 30th. Please keep Dominica and all the other islands in your prayers and send us plenty of good vibes!

In the hurricane zone, all Caribbean countries are vulnerable. I think of Michelle, proprietor of the lovely Lazy Tulip Cafe in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, whose ‘second home’ in the Bahamas was devastated by Category 4 Hurricane Joaquin this past weekend.  She wrote to me today, stating that: “[W]e are living in a parallel universe as I sit here now in the same shoes you were in a few weeks ago. Rum Cay got hit by Joaquin and is currently in a state of devastation. I set up this Facebook page in hopes of communicating!” https://www.facebook.com/rumcaycommunity Please take a look at this site.  Perhaps there is some way you could help those folks out too. These days, we just never know when or where disaster will strike!

By now, I have heard and read some sensational stories of bravery, ingenuity, compassion and resilience on the Nature Island.  I won’t repeat them all here right now, but there are a few that really stand out and prove to me that drama does not always have to be a work of fiction! In the coming weeks, I intend to share some of the incredible actions that have taken place in an effort to preserve and continue with life in as normal a manner as possible, given the extreme dire circumstances that have arisen since Erika.

Suffice to say that I now firmly believe in the resilience of the human spirit, as clearly evidenced by those who have been adversely affected by this severe storm.  I am also encouraged by the level of compassion that has been demonstrated by all of the donors worldwide, who have shown that they really care about this beautiful little Caribbean island called Dominica – my adopted home!

I understand that cash donations are still needed and are now a priority, as Dominica begins the lengthy rebuilding process.  If you have not already done so, or would like to do so again, please consult the first paragraph of this post for a list of Government of Dominica approved bank accounts and organizations. The people of Dominica are very grateful for your help!

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Fellow Canadians, Please Help Dominica to Recover from TS Erika’s Devastating ‘Blows’

Help Rebuild Dominica

Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area and further afield, please find it in your hearts to help the Nature Island and her hopeful citizens, who have suffered tremendously at the hands of TS Erika.

This post is directed specifically at fellow countrymen and women in Canada. However, I urge readers all over the world to consider contributing to the Relief Effort  in Dominica with donations or contributions through aid organizations such as the International Red Cross  (specify Dominica) or the Government of Dominica’s special accounts in various currencies . Further information can be found by clicking Office of the Prime Minister of Dominica – TS Erika Recovery and Reconstruction Fund.

You may already know that Dominica, like Canada, is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  But did you know that thousands of Dominicans live in Canada?  Despite their relocation, they maintain very close ties with their homeland, the Nature Island, as evidenced by the proactive Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association.  I have met many Dominican-Canadians over the past 18 years, and they are very appreciative of the diverse opportunities they have had in this large northern land.  The only complaint is a unanimous one: the cold!  I can certainly empathize with that.

I am not sure how many Canadians reside on the Nature Isle.  The few with whom I am acquainted have lived there for more than a decade.  Other friends have returned to Canada, but keep up ties and interest in this beautiful rainforested land that was their  home for a while.

While media coverage has been sadly lacking since the passage of TS Erika completely destroyed Dominica on August 27th, international aid has arrived from many countries – both large and small.  The country’s nearest neighbours, comprised of members of CARICOM and French Overseas Departments were quick to assist in myriad ways. British and Dutch relief ships have brought in some badly needed supplies and medical personnel.  Unfortunately,  response to this crisis has been slow from developed countries such as Canada.  Much more humanitarian aid and  support is required to help this tiny country of 70,000 people to get back on its feet.

 You may be aware that about 30  people died  and others are still missing.  People have lost loved ones, homes and sources of employment.  The demolished infrastructure is estimated at over one billion dollars to reconstruct.  The island’s Douglas-Charles airport requires $ 40 million to rebuild to become fully operational again. Agriculture, the country’s economic mainstay is no more. Hundreds of millions of dollars are desperately needed to recover from all aspects of this disaster.
People are suffering.  Two entire villages have to be relocated, as they were reduced to rubble. The need for clean water  is urgent, as gastroenteritis is becoming a prevalent health condition. Other essentials for daily living are now a critical concern.  One need only read up-to-date news reports from Dominica to gain appreciation for the shocking aftermath of this natural disaster at Dominica News Online.

General awareness of this dire situation in Canada is almost non-existent.  It would be most appreciated if the Government of Canada would consider the crisis in Dominica as a worthy area for humanitarian assistance to aid in this massive recovery effort. I attempted to call the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday and was not successful in relaying my message by phone.  However, I did fill out a form email letter, requesting humanitarian aid for Dominica. If you would like to do the same, it could only help increase awareness about the crisis on the Nature Island.  Click here to write to  Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs .

Thankfully, there are some organizations such as the Toronto-based Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association (CDOA)who are spearheading a massive fundraisingGetAttachment campaign, organizing benefit concerts and collecting requested items to be sent to Dominica.  In fact, two containers are be shipped to Dominica this weekend, and it is likely another one will be sent to the Nature Island in the near future.  They have raised over $50,000 of their $100,000 CAD goal, thanks to donations both large and small to their charitable initiative.  This drive is recognized by the Government of Dominica.  Please clink on the link above to the CDOA to find out more and/or make a donation to the Relief and Recovery Effort.

As well, the Rotary Club of Ottawa South has close ties with the Nature Isle, and is organizing events and raising funds in aid of Dominica’s plight.  If you live in the Nation’s Capital, you might like to check them out.

As a Canadian who has resided on Dominica for more than 18 years, I will do all that I can to help those in my adopted home.  Fellow countrymen and women, you

Gwedominica sends plenty of good vibes to her adopted country, Dominica from her native land, Canada on a late summer afternoon.

Gwendominica sends plenty of good vibes to her adopted country, Dominica, from her native land, Canada on a sunshine-filled summer afternoon.

may not live there, you may not know much about the Nature Island, but I assure you that it is one of the most pristine places in the world, and that is why I live there. It has given me an improved quality of life and numerous opportunities for adventure in its sensational surroundings. You can find out more by reading Ti Domnik Tales, which has over 150 posts about this lovely land!  Its warm friendly people may be small in number compared to other countries, but they definitely deserve a helping hand to recover from this catastrophic natural disaster.

Please find it in your hearts to help  Dominica in its time of need.  Thank you!!!

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!!!