Dominica suffering losses from Hurricane Maria

The first images from Dominica show the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

Dominica

Dominica – the first island hit by the full category-five force of Hurricane Maria – is “in a daze”, officials have said, cut off from its Caribbean neighbors in the wake of a storm that destroyed properties, silenced communications and cut power and running water.

Seven people have so far been confirmed dead in Dominica but that toll is expected to rise as rescue teams make their way to inaccessible parts of the island.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said there had been a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings”. There was no electricity and virtually no means of communicating with the outside world, he said.

Henry said he had spoken to Skerrit – who had to be rescued from his flooded residence during the hurricane – via satellite phone. “He and family are fine: Dominica is not,” he said.

“The main general hospital took a beating. Patient care has been compromised. Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that an urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials.

The first images from Dominica show the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed as a direct result of the hurricane. That figure, the prime minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities.”

Some districts were reporting “total destruction” of homes, roads and crops, Henry said. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

“The breadth of the destruction is staggering – intact or untouched homes hard to find amid the chaos.”

The airport and sea ports are closed, although Henry said it was hoped a landing strip could be opened within days to allow relief teams and supplies to reach the island. Recovery efforts are being coordinated from the nearby islands of St Lucia and Antigua.

Philmore Mullin, head of Antigua and Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services, told CNN the only power available on the island was from emergency generators and car batteries. “Damage is severe and widespread. We know of casualties, but not in detail. We’ve heard of many missing but we just don’t know much at the moment.”

Ross University school of medicine, which is based in Dominica, said it would being to evacuate its students – more than 80% of whom are US citizens, with close to 10% from Canada – by boat to St Lucia on Thursday, “weather permitting”.

Ronald Jackson, the executive director of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, said staff had managed to guide helicopters to Dominica to deliver some food, water and shelter materials on Wednesday.

In an interview with Jamaica’s RJR News, Jackson said the agency was planning to drop people into remote communities with satellite phones because many areas were completely inaccessible. Communications towers were snapped by winds of up to 160mph (260km/h).

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