Days after Hurricane Maria ripped the roof off Roosevelt Skerrit’s home, leaving him “at the complete mercy” of the storm, the Dominica prime minister gave an emotional interview on live television about his rescue and the plight of his ravaged island nation.
“We’ve never seen such destruction. It’s unprecedented,” Skerrit told ABS TV in Antigua on Thursday, pausing a few times to wipe tears from his eyes. “Everywhere in Dominica has received a serious beating. Every part. If it was not by the wind, it was by the river.”
Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, flattened entire villages throughout the country, leaving a trail of uprooted trees, downed power lines, destroyed buildings and flooded streets.
The Caribbean island’s location and weak infrastructure make it especially vulnerable to natural disasters. It was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed dozens of people in 2015, when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck within a two-week period this month.
While Irma brushed past Dominica, Maria tore right through it ― leaving “almost complete devastation” in its wake, according to Skerrit.
The entire country remains without power and telecommunication services, he explained, making vital search-and-rescue missions even more challenging.
As of Thursday morning, survivors had “buried in excess of 15 people” in Dominica, which has a population of about 74,000, the prime minister said. But many parts of the country remain difficult to access, making it possible that the death toll will rise. At least 20 people are still missing.
“It’s just a miracle that we don’t have hundreds of deaths,” Skerrit added. “People were cramping themselves into kitchen cupboards to survive.”
Skerrit, who was forced to take cover under a mattress after his house was flooded and torn apart by the storm, will head to New York on Friday to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
He intends to ask other world leaders for support to aid Dominica’s recovery efforts. “Dominica’s going to need all of the help the world can offer,” he said.