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Dominica remembers Hurricane David

by: - August 29, 2013
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When the category 5 storm made landfall on Dominica in 1979, it claimed the lives of 40 people while thousands were reportedly injured.

When the category 5 storm made landfall on Dominica in 1979, it claimed the lives of 40 people while thousands were reportedly injured. The photograph is a section of Goodwill, Roseau. Photo credit: Dr Lennox Honychurch

Today, August 29th marks the 34th anniversary of Hurricane David, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever strike Dominica.

When the category 5 storm made landfall on Dominica in 1979, it claimed the lives of 40 persons while thousands were reportedly injured.

A few days before the deadly hurricane hit the island, forecasters said it would spare Dominica and hit Barbados.

However, the hurricane which was heading towards Barbados, changed course and moved towards Dominica.

Because of the earlier prediction that the storm would instead hit Barbados residents did not take warnings seriously.

The storm came packing 150 miles-per-hour gusting winds to 200 miles and lasted some six hours. Historically, there have been few storms whose effects were so widespread.

Homes, roads and schools were destroyed leaving nearly three quarter of the population homeless. Roads and bridges were swept away and affected the economy severely.

Homes, roads and schools were destroyed leaving nearly three quarter of the population homeless.

Homes, roads and schools were destroyed leaving nearly three quarter of the population homeless.

Program officer at the Office of Disaster Management, Steve Joseph said in an interview with Dominica Vibes that there are lessons to be learnt from that disaster.

“We know from the records that Dominica, in terms of the warning, we were being told that Barbados would be hit but these events…are unpredictable, it’s not an exact science and that’s why we normally try to educate the public”.

He noted that some members of the public are “very critical” and “bash” disaster and meteorological officers when their predictions are not “on point”.

“It is meant to be predictions and we do not for once stop in encouraging and educating the public to be prepared to ensure that they do not let their guards down,” he said.

Mr Joseph said although Dominica has progressed in its hurricane preparedness efforts, there’s a lot more to be done.

“We have come a long way, I mean the level of seriousness that we give disasters now has certainly enhanced, we’ve moved ahead and established the Office of Disaster Management, we have NEPO in place, we have structures and systems in place and we have an ongoing comprehensive disaster management strategy that we are trying to roll out,” he noted.

Mr Joseph further stated that efforts at shelter management and retrofitting are other areas that have been developed.

“In terms of building our resilience you see all kinds of mitigation works happening on our coast line, people building stronger homes, we’ve certainly come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” he said.

He also advised citizens who did not experience Hurricane David that they should not be “too curious to put themselves in harm’s way and then to put pressure on the emergency services to then respond”.

Dominica Vibes News