The Dominica Cabinet has announced a decision to declare a state of emergency, inclusive of a curfew, on Sunday 8 July 2018 as preparations for Tropical Storm Beryl moves into high gear.
Dominica had been under a hurricane watch from Friday 6 July 2018 but this was discontinued and a Tropical Storm Warning issued at 11AM on Saturday 7 July as Beryl had weakened to a tropical storm.
At 11am, Tropical Storm Beryl was located near latitude 12.1 degrees north and longitude 51.1 degrees west or about 720 miles east south-east of Dominica. Beryl is moving west north-west at 14 mph (22km/h) and maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 65mph or 100km/h.
On the forecast track, the center of Beryl will approach the Lesser Antilles over the weekend and cross the island chain late Sunday or Monday either very near or over Dominica. Additional weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours.
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours (two days).
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said during a live press conference on Saturday 7 July that notwithstanding this downgrade from a hurricane watch to a tropical storm warning, citizens “should not let their guard down”.
“We must not become complacent,” he added considering that Tropical Storm Erika “wrought tremendous destruction on our country in 2015”.
“The way that scientists have explained the storm will tell you that it is still early hours yet, and anything can change either for the better, which we hope, or for the worst which we fear,” Mr. Skerrit stated.
Meanwhile, the state of emergency and curfew will be implemented on Sunday so as to ensure that the lawlessness and looting which occurred after Hurricane Maria will not repeat itself.
“Let me say to the population very seriously that we will not tolerate any lawlessness on Dominica from anyone,” the Prime Minister warned.
“Let me tell you something, we will not tolerate lawlessness from anyone in Dominica, and the state will take proactive and pre-emptive measures to ensure that that which happened after [Hurricane] Maria that there will not be even one incident of it, far more many incidents of it,” he emphasized.
The Cabinet, he added, is waiting to be advised in writing by the Chief of Police regarding the state of emergency and curfew and “will give you later today the precise time when it will come into effect tomorrow”.
Based on advice from the Office of Disaster Management and from the Dominica Meteorological Service we will start seeing signs of the storm from around midday Sunday, or later, going into Monday.
“But anybody; it could be a priest, you could be a pastor, you could be an employee of the state, if you have no business being out during the curfew hours, you will be picked up,” Mr. Skerrit warned.
He however noted that emergency personnel and those who are employed with essential service institutions will be exempted.
The Prime Minister also commended the Met Office, the Office of Disaster Management and the National Emergency Planning Organization (NEPO) for the level of seriousness with which they have taken their tasks. He said this indicates that “we have learnt from our experiences”.
Chief of Police Daniel Carbon, who also addressed Saturday’s press conference, reminded business owners that it is their “fundamental right” to secure their properties and businesses.
Last year, a number of businesses relied on the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force to ensure the safety and security of their businesses, but many were the victims of looting.
With respect to emergency shelters, these will be opened from 6AM on Sunday 8 July 2018, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Shelters, Glenroy Toussaint announced at the press conference.
The public is advised to move into those shelters early and avoid waiting until the weather conditions deteriorate.
However, Mr. Toussaint advised persons who wish to be accommodated at the shelters of the need to walk with essential supplies and necessities including prescribed medications.
“We want the general public to understand that in those shelters there are no beds and mattresses and food waiting for you,” he said.
“Do not come to the shelter with your hands swinging and expect that the shelters are equipped with beds and food and those supplies,” he continued.
According to Mr. Toussaint, one of the lessons learnt from Hurricane Maria is that some people “simply stroll to the shelters and expect that they will be comforted with items”.
“No, that’s not the case, and we’re calling on the general public that if you’re going to the shelter you come with at least some water, some food, at least a flash light, and that sort of thing so that you can at least be secure for a few hours,” Mr. Toussaint advised.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services also reported during the press conference that its disaster plan and necessary standards of operation are in place and fully activated to respond to this impending disaster.
Director of Primary Health Care Services, Dr. Laura Esprit informed that they are prepared to care for the health needs of the population in the event that we are impacted.
“Adequate medical supplies are in stock including our pharmaceuticals, oxygen, and other medical supplies both at the district level as well as the Princess Margaret Hospital. All emergency disaster boxes have been replenished, secured and placed in strategic areas,” Dr. Esprit said.
In addition, she informed that all the districts as well as the Princess Margaret Hospital are equipped with functional HF radios for ease of communication between the various facilities.
Meanwhile, the Dominica Water and Sewerage Company (DOWASCO) will be closing all water supply systems from 6PM today Saturday as part of preparations for Hurricane Beryl.
Public relations officer of the DOWASCO, Edward Registe said the company has activated its disaster preparedness plan in an effort to secure the water supply systems around the country.
In light of this, all storage tanks have been filled to ensure that there is water supply for as long as is possible.
However, Mr. Registe said it is anticipated that there could be heavy rainfall which could result in severe turbidity.
Current rainfall amount projected for Dominica, as per the Dominica Meteorological Service, “is between 4 to 6 inches (100 to 150mm) with higher amounts in elevated areas”.
“Therefore a decision has been taken to shut down all water systems from 6PM on Saturday 7 July until further notice,” Mr. Registe said.
Residents and citizens are therefore reminded to store enough water for drinking as well as domestic purposes before 6PM today.