Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 10th 2015 Contents A36
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Notice of the EMA
between a mangled mass of uprooted
trees and a ferocious precipice, the
little blue house is a minor rainstorm
away from plunging down the moun-
tainside into obliteration.
From the cornflakes box on the porch
and the forlorn dog slumped at the
front door, it s clear the owners left in
One of dozens of homes abandoned
in the village of Petite Savanne---the
reluctant centrepiece of Dominica s
worst disaster in almost four decades---
it s a startling testimony to the way
nature can unleash its fury at a
moment s notice.
Tropical Storm Erika was notable
less for its speed than its stealth, arriving
without warning in the early hours of
27 August as islanders slept.
Dumping 13 inches of rain in 12 hours,
it turned mountainsides to mush caus-
ing catastrophic landslides, and rivers
into rushing overflowing torrents,
claiming 34 lives and devouring 271
homes across the island.
Today, as the island battles to pick
up the pieces, two government workers
have flown into Petite Savanne by hel-
icopter in an attempt to convince the
handful of remaining residents of the
danger they face should more rain fall.
Here, the colourful sprawling homes,
flanked by manicured hedges and
expensive cars, are a far cry from the
flimsy structures one might expect
given the magnitude of the damage.
It s immediately apparent that this
was a prosperous place, buttressed by
its location at the heart of Dominica s
bay oil industry.
The absence of most of its 700 res-
idents has left it ghostly quiet---the
current population of 18 doubled by
the police sleeping in the village church
to deter looters.
The homes still standing may look
sturdy enough---but the steep terrain
has left them vulnerable to further
landslides. Omegar Francis girlfriend
fled with the couple s two children as
soon as it was safe to do so. So far he s
ignored official warnings to follow.
"The last few days have been rough,"
he admits, "but my house is far from
the river so I m not afraid."
Phillip Darroux, 52, is also determined
to stay, despite the fact all main roads
in and out of the village have been
destroyed, leaving Petite Savanne
dependent on daily food drops by emer-
Asked what he plans to do when the
supplies stop, he says: "People don t
need a lot of money here. In the old
days, we lived on what we grew and
drank spring water."
Another resident, Johnson Destouche,
simply says he has nowhere else to go.
Officials still don t know if Petite
Savanne will ever be rebuilt.
For now, Dominica s focus is on re-
housing the 400 islanders sleeping in
shelters and paying the $220m needed
to fix the country s wrecked roads and
Just 12 bodies have been recovered
to date---a further 22 people are missing,
presumed dead. Four communities are
still completely cut off, and Dominica s
two biggest industries---agriculture and
tourism---have been pummelled by $9m
and $10m losses respectively. Another
$14m is needed to fix the international
Nonetheless, Dominicans have shown
themselves to be a stoic bunch, with
everyone from power plant staff to relief
effort co-ordinators toiling round the
clock to get the country functioning
Debra Charles-Mark, owner of self-
catering Ohlala Villas in Delices, esti-
mates it will take three years and
$400,000 to return the enterprise she
describes as her "pride and joy" to its
"The business was just taking off;
we didn t yet have the money for insur-
ance," she says sadly, surveying the
ruins of the smashed cottages and
swimming pool. "But we are deter-
mined to rebuild."
Astonishment at the storm s sheer,
unexpected savagery is a recurrent
theme. Edward Laurent, from Mahaut,
described it as the worst he s seen in
his 75 years.
And Gittens Anglaise, 43, of Colihaut,
related tales of leaping from a window
and shinnying across the water along
electrical wires "like Rambo."
His neighbour Molly John had been
Life after the storm:
out celebrating her 20th wedding
anniversary when the storm struck.
She returned to find her home and
adjoining restaurant submerged in water
"up to the doorframe" destroying thou-
sands of dollars worth of appliances.
"I used to cook seven days a week;
now I have no income," she says. "We
lost everything, even my children s
One of the tourism industry s biggest
casualties is the Jungle Bay resort---
most of its 35 luxury lodges were pul-
verised. Spa manager Dafrica Summers
credits "divine guidance" with keeping
all of the 43 holidaymakers there at the
Tourism Minister Robert Tonge told
the BBC it was "heartbreaking" to wit-
ness the destruction to one of Domini-
ca s economic lynchpins, but vowed:
"It may look like all is lost but we are
resilient people; we will build back up."
Dominica seeks return to normality
It may take
years to rebuild
Roads on the island
have been cut, leaving
some locals to rely
only on supplies by air.
Despite the utter devastation, many residents are determined to
rebuild their lives.
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