Anglican Church assists in response to Tropical Storm Erika on Caribbean island of Dominica

8 October 2015

The storm brought some 12 inches (30 centimetres) of rain in the space of only 2-4 hours, wrote Fr Reid Simon from the diocesan office in Antigua in an email on 23 September. The resulting flooding and landslides devastated houses and infrastructure, and killed “upwards of 30 people”, Agence France-Presse reported on 1 September. A World Bank assessment released on 25 September has estimated total damage at 90% of Dominica’s annual GDP, with over USD 33.5 million required to rebuild housing alone.

“There has been much displacement and chaos in the wake of the storm. There has been loss of life.  There are still some persons who cannot be found,” Fr Reid said. Dominica Prime Minister Skerrit Roosevelt declared on 30 September that the island had been set back 20 years.

Fr Reid reported that the Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba, part of the Church in the Province of the West Indies, had responded by mobilizing supplies of food and clothing, as well as making special financial collections.  “It is laudable that there are still people from within the Diocese who are making their financial and other contributions since the appeal was launched,” he added.

Needs are still pressing. Three of the island’s nine communities had been declared a state of emergency and permanent housing was lacking for nearly 14,300 people who had lost their homes, about a fifth of the population, according to Loreen Bannis-Roberts, chairwoman of the Dominica Disaster Relief Fund on St. Thomas, reported the Virgin Islands Daily News on 3 October.

Financial assistance was needed to rebuild homes, and to purchase bedding, and linens and other such commodities, said Fr Reid. 

“It is our prayer that more persons will offer financial and other support to the people of Dominica.  We pray that as our sisters and brothers in that country seek to rebuild their lives, we and others will stand with them.  Let us then bear one another’s burdens,” he added.

Dominica has not been immune to the ravages of natural disasters in the past. Rebuilding after the devastation of the category 5 Hurricane David in 1979 took several years.

Clifton Nedd, Anglican Alliance Caribbean Regional Advisor, noted that the region still remained highly vulnerable to the effects of slow moving tropical weather systems. “These systems produce a significant amount of rainfall which swells trickling streams into fast flowing rivers. The extensive damage caused by flash flooding … suggests that slow moving tropical storms and depressions need to be regarded with an elevated disaster risk alert.”

There are two Anglican churches on the island: St. John in the capital city of Roseau, and St. George in the second largest town of Portsmouth.

Photo credit: Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba. Debris clogs a swollen stream following Tropical Storm Erika.