Editorial: We have always shared a lot

- Advertisement -

We were spared … Dominica was not! Hurricane Maria has wreaked unimaginable destruction across the island as it slowed to a nine mph pace. It was as if Mother Nature wanted to make a point. We say “unimaginable” because, like Barbuda, no one can imagine the destruction unless you witness it yourself. Pictures and videos will only convey a two-dimensional representation of the aftermath, and can never capture that full picture (no pun intended).
The country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, summed it up well when he said, “We have lost all that money can buy.” After that, the toll will be counted in human suffering. We know very little of the aftermath beyond a brief video, a few still pictures and some descriptions of what occurred during the storm and what was left afterward. But even that limited information paints a bleak picture.
As we hunkered down to ward off the effects of tropical storm conditions on the edge of Hurricane Maria, we saw a different reaction from Barbudans. When it was evident that there would be no reprieve for Dominica, Barbudans demonstrated a level of concern that only people with a shared experience could. There was pained concern and empathy for our Caribbean brothers and sisters in Dominica. Barbudans knew what awaited them.
The “Nature Island of the Caribbean” was still recovering from past storms, especially Tropical Storm Erika which passed just north of Dominica in August 2015, just two years ago. It would be known as the deadliest natural disaster in Dominica since Hurricane David in 1979. It has been reported that Dominica’s terrain led to rainfall accumulations of up to 33 inches. The already saturated ground could not hold the rain, and that resulted in catastrophic floods and landslides across the island. Those landslides made things worse as they created temporary dams in Dominica’s famous rivers which eventually collapsed. Hundreds of homes were damaged and became uninhabitable, causing thousands of people to be displaced.  
One of the worse hit areas was the town of Petite Savanne, a village located on the southeast side of Dominica with a population of about 1,200 (in 2015). As a result of the extensive damage to the village, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit declared it a special disaster area, resulting in a mandatory and permanent evacuation of all residents. Petite Savanne was uninhabitable, and most of its residents were relocated to Roseau.
For so many reasons, Antigua and Barbuda has always had a deep connection to Dominica. Dominicans have always found a warm welcome to our shores and have integrated themselves in our communities. We reflect on Erika and the destruction of Petite Savanne as the situation in Dominica bears uncanny resemblances to recent experiences here at home. Following the evacuation of Barbuda, many of the Dominicans reflected on the déjà vu of a community wiped out by a storm and having to be evacuated; they foretold of the desire to return, and the promises that will be made in the aftermath. They warned that the future can be told by looking at Dominica’s past.
For reference, they pointed to the early 2016 pronouncements of PM Skerrit. In talking about the development of a new community for the displaced people of Petite Savanne, he is reported to have said, “We have acquired the lands, we have done sub-divisions and what we have done is to engage an international firm to prepare a plan for us, a settlement plan … What we want to do is not just put down houses – if it was to put down houses then we would have started constructing houses for the Petite Savanne people – but we want to ensure that we create a community. … Work is going on with speed, we have commitments for some of the houses and the government itself is prepared to make resources available to fill the gaps where gaps are recognised.”
Investigations reveal that progress on the 500 to 1,000-home community has been slow to non-existent.  Some hardcore residents from Petite Savanne returned to their village, and we await to hear their fate following Maria.
Many are now marvelling at the recent storm and how our experiences seems to be intertwined in some strange way. Obviously, the Petite Savanne and Barbuda situations are very different, but there are certainly enough similarities to make a person go “hmmmm!?!?”
in all of this,  there must be a silver lining. It may not be evident right now, but it will be. We must believe so. We have the shared experiences of Category 5 hurricanes and displaced communities. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from each other that will help us overcome this hurdle in life. Togetherness and unity are our strengths.  Maybe that is the point Mother Nature was trying to make.
In the meanwhile, we pray for the people of Dominica and for the displaced people of Barbuda.

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here