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Dominica slowly picking itself up after Maria

Bert Wilkinson | 10/5/2017, 1:13 p.m.
Coverage of the 2017 hurricane season is slowly disappearing from the major newspapers and from the daily lineup of media ...
Devastation in Dominica after Hurricane Maria CNN photo

Coverage of the 2017 hurricane season is slowly disappearing from the major newspapers and from the daily lineup of media houses in the Caribbean less than a month after two of the worst storms ever to have passed through the region caused extensive damage to more than a dozen countries or cities stretching from Dominica to Florida in the U.S.

It is as if life has returned to normal for a region that has to continuously worry about which group of countries would be leveled each year and forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars rebuilding rather than moving development forward.

But for the small Eastern Caribbean Island nation of Dominica, which along with Dutch St. Maarten, French St. Martin, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba and Puerto Rico was pulverized by the storms, life is very slowly returning to normal.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a weekend state of the nation address that he would be traveling extensively in the coming weeks to spread the word about the state of his island of approximately 72,000 people and how it must adjust building codes to survive, rather than again be battered by another Category 5 storm in the coming years.

“No manual could have prepared us for this,” he said. “We are all on a learning curve but commitment and determination must win out. We shall overcome Hurricane Maria.” He briefed islanders about power and water supplies slowly being restored to state and private buildings, hospitals and health centers in particular. He congratulated health and other authorities for ensuring that there is, so far, no major outbreak of diseases on the island.

He said both of the island’s two main airport runways have been reopened to limited commercial flights but damage to terminal buildings is extensive. Water and electricity will also have to be restored to allow for normal services.

And even as he prepares to travel to several countries and capitals in the coming weeks, Skerrit says the focus of cash aid to his island nation must now be rebuilding the country in a manner that must be able to withstand stronger than usual storms, or authorities would be wasting time and money.

“We labor to build back better, to build a climate resistant Dominica,” he said. “We are working with our international partners to not just rebuild but to carefully consider where we build, what and how we build. The international community has reacted positively to our desire to do so.” He plans to visit Washington, D.C., for talks with a string of legislators, the World Bank and aid agencies. He has even hinted about the possibility of meeting President Donald Trump formally. He said Dominica in the new matrix after hurricanes Maria and Irma could become “the first climate resilient nation of the climate change era.”

In the meantime, Guyana, a South American nation that doubles as the headquarters of the 15-nation bloc of Caribbean single-market trading nations, has ramped up its aid donations to Dominica and other nations. It plans to send the first shipment of 300 tons of lumber to Dominica to help in home reconstruction. It has already sent large quantities of food, water, medicines and other supplies, like sister bloc members.