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Cut off from outside world
"My roof is gone...I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding."
Those were the frantic few words posted by the Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on his Facebook page on Monday night, just before power went out and all communication lines went down as Hurricane Maria ravaged through the island as a category 5 hurricane.
Skerrit later posted that he was rescued and last night was evacuated from the island.
During the powerful hurricane, with winds up to 200 mph, Skerrit kept in touch with the people of Dominica via postings.
An early post read: "We do not know what is happening outside. We not dare look out. All we are hearing is the sound of galvanize flying. The sound of the fury of the wind. As we pray for its end!"
As Hurricane Maria was bashing Dominica, Skerrit chose to send out an immediate call for help.
"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days. That is why I am eager now to solicit the support of friendly nations and organisations with helicopter services, for I personally am eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed," Skerrit said.
Initial reports reaching Skerrit on Monday suggested widespread devastation.
"So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace," Skerrit said.
He added that his greatest fear was waking up yesterday to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.
"So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside," Skerrit said via his Facebook post during the hurricane.
"I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured."
T&T Guardian understands all communication towers on the island are down and are expected to be so for a while. Only Ham Radio Operators are in communication with one another and the outside world.
In an immediate response, the T&T Government yesterday named six people to form part of a Rapid Needs Assessment Team and Operational Support Team to be sent immediately to Dominica. The T&T Coast Guard (TTCG) and T&T Air Guard (TTAG) also readied personnel and maritime assets to transport emergency relief supplies to the island.
According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the TTCG vessel left for Dominica at midnight and a helicopter from the National Helicopter Service Limited leaves at daybreak today to help in the relief efforts in Dominica.
The OPM said several agencies have been assisting with coordinating relief efforts, including the OPM, Ministries of National Security, Foreign and Caricom Affairs, the TTDF, NHSL, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Caribbean Airlines and the Immigration Department.
"The Government of T&T has also been liaising with the Caricom Secretariat and other Caricom members throughout the day to obtain information and work out the logistics of providing support and assistance to Dominica," the OPM said.
The ANSA McAL Group has committed to donating some of its own products from various sectors to the hurricane relief effort and has called on its employees and the public to drop off essential items at all Standard Distributors across T&T between 8 am to 4 pm, as well as Alstons Shipping Limited, Building #10, ANSA McAL Centre, Uriah Butler Highway and Endeavour Road, Chaguanas.
The donation window started on Monday and will continue to October 9.
A complete list of essential relief items can also be found on the company website at www.ansamcal.com