Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Friday laid bare the devastation caused to his country by Hurricane Maria, telling world leaders, “Eden is broken.”
“The nation of Dominica has come here to declare an international humanitarian emergency, one that is centred in Dominica but also encompasses many of our neighbours including our sister isle of Antigua which had to evacuate its citizens from Barbuda,” Skerrit told delegates at the United Nations General Assembly, New York.
“Dominicans, Mr President, has been responsible members of the global community. We have co-joined all of the major international battles, from the abolition of forced labour to the protection of patents.
“Yet today, 72,000 Dominicans lie on the frontline in a war they did not choose with extensive casualties from a war they did not start.”
Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica as a Category Five storm early last week, flattening more than 90 per cent of the island’s infrastructure and leaving hundreds homeless and in desperate need of food, clothing, shelter and basic medical supplies.
Skerrit, whose home also was destroyed by Maria, gave an emotional interview on Wednesday in which he made a global appeal for help in the restoration process.
During his address to the UN, Skerrit highlighted the grim realities on the ground.
“We dug graves today (Friday) in Dominica. We buried loved ones yesterday (Thursday) and I am sure that as I return home tomorrow there shall be additional fatalities as a consequence of these encounters.
“Our buildings are roofless, our water pipes smashed and road infrastructure destroyed. Our hospitals are without power and schools have disappeared beneath the rubble.”
Skerrit, who is also Dominica’s Minister for Finance and Public Service, said the island’s crops also were uprooted.
“Where there was green, there is now only dust and dirt. The desolation is beyond imagination, Mr President, fellow leaders.”
Skerrit said climate change can no longer be ignored given the hurricanes and storms which were wreaking havoc across the Caribbean and eastern United States.
He lamented the war has come to all countries affected by dangerous weather systems.
“We in the Caribbean do not produce greenhouse gases or sulphate aerosols. We do not pollute our oceans. We have made no contribution to global warming but yet we are among the main victims on the frontline.
“In Dominica, we have long pursued and respected an existence that preserves our little freedom.”
Skerrit said one of Dominica’s major tourist attractions, the Morne Trois Pitons has been a national park for 40 years and a UNESCO World Heritage site for two decades.
“But what is our reality at this moment, pure devastation as Dominicans bare the brunt of climate change. I repeat, we are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced during the post-Cabinet news conference the Government’s decision to waive immigration regulations for a period of six months to allow Dominicans to stay in TT while their country begins the restoration process.
The move has engendered both praise and condemnation among social media users.