Commentary: From misery to recovery in the Caribbean

Liz Thompson is a Barbadian, a former minister of government of Barbados and a former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations. She divides her time between New York and Barbados.

By Liz Thompson

It has been two weeks since Dominica was hit by Category 5 Hurricane #Maria. That blow came on the heels of widespread regional devastation from Hurricanes #Harvey and #Irma. Dominica’s capital is full of quaint housing. It’s a land of mountains, rivers and landslides.

Initially, there was no reliable word, video or still images out of Dominica. That silence was an ominous sign; it portended devastation on a scale, the very thought of which was frightening. It told us that all means of communication had been lost and the country must be flattened. The world’s last messages from Dominica came from its prime minister, Roosevelt Skerritt, on his official Facebook page.

The prime minister’s messages went viral. In the first he said that what the island and its residents were experiencing was, “Rough! Rough! Rough!” The sound, he said, was “severe.” One could only hear howling winds and flying sheets of galvanised as roofs were lost, but one dared not look out because of the danger.

His next message was to say that the roof of his official residence had blown off, the house was flooding and he was “at the complete mercy of the elements.” That was followed by a post from the prime minister informing that he had been rescued.

The last word which seemed to emerge from Dominica also came from the prime minister’s Facebook page. He issued a statement, formal in its wording, plaintive in its plea and tone. He appealed for help, saying that it was impossible to get out to do a complete survey because the “all clear” had not been issued, but from the reports he had been able to obtain, the scale of destruction was enormous.

Prime Minister Skerritt expressed concern about the injured, those trapped in rubble or landslides and those…

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