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Caribbean mobilises to help Dominica

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Member States within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are preparing to offer assistance to Dominica following the passage of Hurricane Maria late Monday.

According to CARICOM Chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell, who is also Prime Minister of Grenada, the situation is a challenging one.

“It is clear that we have a tremendous challenge on our hands, in the Caribbean region as a whole,” said Mitchell who was responding to the effects of Hurricane Maria in Dominica.

Mitchell said he spoke to his colleague Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit late Monday, during the passage of the hurricane.

Mitchell, speaking to journalists on Wednesday, pleaded with Grenadians to reach out to Dominicans “we, in Grenada must recognise that we have a tremendous responsibility to help out our brothers and sisters in Dominica and all other affected countries. This is about us, the region.”

Mitchell recently returned from the Turks and Caicos and several Islands in the Bahamas that were affected by Hurricane Irma last week.

In St Lucia, following a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, acting Prime Minister Lenard Montoute said plans were already underway to make St Lucia an operational base for the relief effort to Dominica.

“Right now our thoughts are with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and the people of Dominica. Preliminary information is that we have widespread devastation in Dominica,” said Montoute.

“From our understanding they are facing a very critical situation and our prayers are with them, as our sister and neighbour. We have to respond and do what we can to assist our brothers and sisters in Dominica.”

He also said that communication has been made with the French and Venezuelan authorities in terms of assistance.

“St Lucia will be used as the base for relief efforts into Dominica because, as you can well appreciate, the airports are not operational; neither are the sea ports. Reconnaissance flights will have to be made to ascertain the actual situation on the ground and for immediate preparation to be made for the landing of helicopters and other aircrafts.

“We are looking at what assistance we can give immediately and that may entail medical assistance and sending medical personnel and people with expertise in search and rescue. We are hoping that by this evening an assessment of the situation would have been made and we can get a better appreciation of the kind of assistance that is immediately required,” Mitchell said.

With St Lucia being used as an operational base for the humanitarian effort, the Government has agreed in conjunction with the St Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority to waive fees and facilitate the use of warehouse facilities for receipt and distribution.

Meanwhile, the political leader of St Lucia Labour Party, Philip J Pierre, said the party has initiated a “help Dominica” drive and the party has opened its headquarters in order to receive donations.

Seven people have so far been confirmed dead as a result of Hurricane Maria's direct hit on Dominica on Monday night, but there are fears that death toll could rise as officials get into communities that have not yet been reached.

Much of the island's housing stock were either damaged or destroyed by Maria's 160 mile-per-hour winds, according to Hartley Henry, principal advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

St Lucia is coordinating with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission on the response efforts.

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