Residents fearful for relatives after Dominica blackout
Worried island residents spoke of their fears yesterday as the Caribbean was again battered by a major hurricane.
Dominica, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were among countries hammered by Hurricane Maria — the second to hit the region in about two weeks.
Alan Joell, who has family in Dominica, said: “I am still trying to find out what is happening. I haven’t heard anything.
“It’s torture. No one wants to hear bad news but no news is even worse. I’d love to hear, ‘I am fine’ or ‘I am coping’.
“I have had some contact with friends, but I am definitely trying to locate family just to get some word.”
Mr Joell said the former British colony of about 72,000 people had been devastated by a hurricane two years ago but the damage caused by Maria was even worse.
He said he had seen pictures and video footage of the damage caused by Maria after it hit as a Category 5 hurricane.
Mr Joell said it wiped out all communication systems and that the only news came from amateur radio operators, who had become the “voice of Dominica”.
He said they are reporting a direct hit and that 90 per cent of buildings has been damaged.
There are also reports of multiple casualties and extensive damage to the transport network.
He added: “Most of the roads and bridges have been washed away. Every available building that hasn’t been damaged is being used as a shelter.”
But he said the Canefield airport was accessible by helicopter and the Barbados Defence Force would send supplies.
Seven deaths have been confirmed in Dominica since the storm made landfall on Monday night and officials spoke of a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings”.
Hartley Henry, advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, said urgent help was needed.
Sylvester Augustine, a retired Bermuda Police officer who talked about his fears for his home country in yesterday’s The Royal Gazette, said he also had been unable to make contact with anyone in Dominica.
He added there was still no communication and most of the cell phone towers are installed on high ground like mountains.
Mr Augustine predicted: “It will take some time for repairs.”
After battering Dominica, Hurricane Maria pummelled Puerto Rico, leaving the island without electricity, a spokesman from the governor’s office in the US protectorate said.
The storm first slammed the coast near Yabucoa early yesterday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 155mph winds.
Maria was expected to produce “life-threatening flooding”, with 12 to 18 inches of rain falling in Puerto Rico through Friday.
Progressive Labour Party MP Christopher Famous, whose sister Roslyn Famous lives in Hato Rey, said he last spoke to her in the early hours of yesterday morning.
He said: “She was hunkered down with about ten friends with enough rations to last a week.”
Ms Famous spoke to The Royal Gazette on Tuesday as she made final preparations ahead of the storm.
Mr Famous said he had tried to contact his sister yesterday but added “as the eye of the storm was directly over PR it is a safe bet that communications took a major hit”.
Ms Famous contacted The Royal Gazette last night and said she was well, although there was “massive damage” an island-wide power cut and blocked roads.
The British Virgin Islands — devastated by Irma earlier this month — were also in the path of Maria and relief workers raced to secure debris strewn about after Irma.
Liz Boden has not heard from IT expert nephew Jeremy “Rusty” Henderson, who lives in BVI’s Tortola, since the storm hit.
She said: “We are really worried again.”
Mr Henderson and his wife Kate and their two sons were in Tortola when Irma hit.
Ms Boden said his family evacuated on Saturday but he stayed behind in Tortola where he had created a makeshift communications task force in the wake of Irma.
She added that the last time they heard from Mr Henderson was in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning that warned of limited communications during the storm.
At least one death was confirmed on the French island of Guadeloupe, officials said.
After pummelling Puerto Rico, Maria was forecast to continue heading towards the Turks and Caicos islands.
More than 1,300 UK troops are staying in the region, including 30 soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment who are working with the British Army in a massive humanitarian relief mission.
Hurricane Maria, now a Category 3 storm, was 786 nautical miles south of Bermuda at 6am.
Maria is not a threat to the island at this time, according to the Bermuda Weather Service.
Its closest point within three days is forecast to be 475 nautical miles to the southwest of Bermuda at 6am on Sunday.
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