Skerrit appeals to the world

(Trinidad Guardian) Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit broke down in tears yesterday as he spoke of the devastation done to his island by Hurricane Maria.

He said hospitals have all been completely destroyed and are without power and there is an urgent need to airlift all critical patients to other countries for medical treatment.

“The hospital (referring to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Roseau) is running worst than a war zone…nurses there are working 96 hours round the clock…we need to get out the critical patients, right now, we are looking to have some of them airlifted to Martinique,” Skerrit said.

He highlighted the particular plight of one cancer patient who, in his desperation, walked 21 miles from Portsmouth to the capital Roseau for dialysis on Wednesday.

Skerrit was speaking during his first official live interview since the “merciless and monstrous” hurricane ravaged the island on Monday. The interview was done out of Antigua with Garfield Burford, director of news at government-owned broadcaster ABS TV in Antigua and Barbuda. Skerrit was shuttled to Antigua in a helicopter for the broadcast at about midday.

The very emotional PM said the logistics of getting supplies to the battered communities throughout the island was very “critical.”He said there had been 15 burials so far of people who died when houses collapsed on them or were swept away by rivers. He added that 70 others remain unaccounted for so far.

“Every part of the island has been affected in the worst way…either 95 or 99 or 85 per cent of homes destroyed…every community received a serious beating, if not by wind, by river or siltation submerging homes. The upper class, the middle class suffered…there were no classes as far as where Maria was concerned,” Skerrit said.

He said east Dominica was severely battered, “in the extreme south a community has been cut off and communities in the rainforest have been declared a disaster zone.”

“We have to take critical decisions in relocating many villages and homes will have to be built for the people,” Skerrit said.

Skerrit made a humble appeal international help, saying, “We need all the help that the world can offer, as small as it is…we need tarpaulins, drinking water, food, baby formula and lumber among many other items.”

From yesterday, relief items were being “air” dropped to communities via helicopters as there are no places for them to land, while via boat, the seas are still too rough and that aspect of relief to communities has been put on hold.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown and his Cabinet, despite the fact that they too are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Irma, greed to donate US$300,000 to Dominica.

Skerrit said he plans to seek help from the United Nations (UN) and will go to address the UN’s General Assembly in person.

“It is going to be a very long and difficult journey…It took Irma and Maria to let the world understand we are very vulnerable and exposed to climate change. We have to build more resilient communities and it is very difficult to raise the money,” Skerrit said.

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