On 18 September, Hurricane Maria evolved from a category 1 storm to a category 5 storm in less than 18 hours, just before it slammed the Caribbean island of Dominica (Source: NASA). It thrashed the country with extreme winds and rain and destroyed all in its path. At the time of landfall, sustained winds, which were reported to be 260 km/h, affected the entire population.
This is the fifth time on record that Dominica has taken a direct hit from a hurricane, but never has it faced a storm of such ferocity and strength. The hurricane brought life in Dominica to a standstill.
In consultation with the Government of Dominica, the humanitarian community launched today a Hurricane Maria Flash Appeal for Dominica. The Appeal seeks $31.1 million to reach 65,000 people within the next three months - September to December 2017.
Scope and scale of the hurricane impact
Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage and destruction in Dominica, one of the poorest countries in the Eastern Caribbean. On 25 September, the UN estimated that the entire population suffered direct damage to housing and livelihoods. Food and water are the most urgent needs. People lack access to fresh running water due to damaged pipes in many parts of the country. The hurricane also caused widespread damage to the power grid, leaving the entire country without electricity. Communication towers on hilltops were snapped in two, causing an island-wide communications blackout. The cellular network has since been unreliable throughout the country. The majority of the roads are blocked with debris and many of the bridges are damaged.
Widespread destruction to housing and livelihoods
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimate that 98 per cent of roofs have been damaged, leaving entire communities homeless. About 50 per cent of houses have sustained damage to their frames.
Initial reports indicate that nearly all of Dominica’s crops have been destroyed. Twenty-five per cent of Dominica’s workforce depends on agriculture, the main exports being root crops, followed by bay oil and bananas. The island’s growing tourism sector, worth 16.5 per cent of the island’s GDP, is also critically impacted, as the rainforests were its main attraction.
Dominica’s poverty rate is estimated at 28.9 per cent (Caribank, 2009), amounting to approximately 21,000 people. Some of the hardest-hit parishes on the north-east coast are among the poorest communities.