…CDEMA gears up for complex Dominica mission

(Barbados Nation) The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has mobilised its resources for what is expected to be a difficult and complex operation in Dominica following Monday night’s direct hit by Hurricane Maria.

Addressing a Press conference yesterday afternoon at CDEMA’s Lower Estate, St Michael office, executive director  Ronald Jackson said each of the 69 000 to 70 000 people living there would be impacted either directly or indirectly.

Jackson said communication with Dominica became challenging around 2 a.m. and almost non-existent by 3 a.m. yesterday.

“However, we have been able through the amateur radio operators to get some contact into Dominica over the course of this early afternoon which indicated to us that there was severe damage to Marigot and that’s a town on the north-eastern side of the island,” he said..

Executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency Ronald Jackson. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)

The CDEMA head said there was potential for significant damage to housing and infrastructure in the island due to its geography and the complexity of settlement.

The country was still putting the pieces together following severe flooding in December 2013, Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 and several localised flooding incidents which would have removed Bailey bridges put in place after Erika.

Of particular concern for CDEMA was the Kalinago Territory between Castle Bruce and Atkinson where the houses are not particularly resilient.

However, Jackson said communities along the east and north would also be affected by storm surge and flooding.

He also noted that the Roseau River had reportedly overflowed before midnight and the situation may have since gotten worse.

Towns to the south of Roseau are expected to have access challenges, including Scott’s Head where the only road access is via Roseau.

“We are anticipating a series of landslides and rock falls all over the island,” Jackson added.

Due to the conditions, the CDEMA head said the agency would have to identify appropriate landing sites for helicopters since fixed-wing aircraft could not be used.

He said this meant the delivery of relief would be slower than that which has followed Hurricane Irma in several member territories.

CDEMA has activated its Regional Response Mechanism and aerial reconnaissance was taking place at the time of the Press conference.

The Regional Security System, including a CDEMA damage assessor, flew over Dominica  to get a better sense of what was happening on the ground and take aerial photos.

 

There was also a planned flight by a partner military institution to take a rapid assessment team and possibly one search and rescue person and a communications kit to the ravaged country.

A Barbados Coast Guard vessel was scheduled to depart Barbados at 6 p.m. to take response teams including search and rescue personnel from the Barbados Fire Service.

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