For about three days last month, Martin Royer did not know what had happened to his mother, brother, sister and other relatives on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica.
Tropical Storm Erika hit the island on Aug. 27, knocking out communications, bridges, roads and even the country’s two airports.
On Saturday, some of the phone lines were back. “I have heard from them, they’re doing well. My mom is in the northern part of the island and the description of the damage there is not as bad,” Mr. Royer said.
Mr. Royer, a minister at the George Town Church of Christ on Grand Cayman who is originally from Dominica, said it will be a long road back for his home country.
“It was only a tropical storm, but the rainfall in that particular storm was very heavy, 12 inches in four hours in some areas [on the southern coast],” he said. “Most of the people died in one community … it has to do with a lot of flash flooding.”
Dominica is familiar with the impact of tropical cyclones, having experienced Hurricanes David, Alan, Hugo and Marilyn since the 1970s, Mr. Royer said. However, 31 dead and dozens more missing in the wake of the recent storm is a “huge number” – greater than the entire number of Dominican work permit holders in the Cayman Islands.
Despite the Dominicans’ small numbers here, residents from around the islands are now chipping in to help out the distressed eastern Caribbean island, the minister noted.
Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Monday that government would contribute about US$500,000 for the recovery effort. The local chapter of the Red Cross, working with Mr. Royer, has set up an account at Butterfield Bank where donations can be made. Rotaract and LIME have also contributed to the fundraising efforts. In addition, Mr. Royer said fundraisers will be held in different venues on each of the next three Saturdays.
The first will be held this Saturday, Sept. 12 at both the George Town and West Bay Church of Christ. Then, on Sept. 19, fundraising efforts will be held outside several local supermarkets. On Sept. 26, additional fundraisers will be held at the churches. The church fundraisers will be held between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Certain donations are needed more than others. Minister Royer said basic essentials, flashlights, blankets, first-aid kits and dry foods are the most in demand. He urged those who wish to assist not to donate water, which is heavy and expensive to ship, and to go easy on clothes.
School supplies for children are needed, since about 3,000 people remain in shelters and some of them are children who have been left without classrooms for the time being.
Travel within and to and from Dominica has been extremely difficult since the storm hit.
“Many of the communities have been isolated because the bridges between them have been washed away,” Mr. Royer said. “It would be like living in North Side and you can’t get to East End.”
Both airports are closed, including the main airport, which has no working terminal, Mr. Royer said. Some special “military” flights have been allowed in, but regular commercial flights won’t be coming in for some time.
Cayman’s government has pledged that Cayman Airways planes would be used to bring in supplies to the nearest available point where they might be shipped to Dominica. Mr. Royer said shipments of some supplies are coming in from neighboring islands, including Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Lucia.