The​ ​Caribbean:​ Hurricane Season Situation Report No. 08 (as of 20 September 2017)

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 20 Sep 2017

This report is produced by OCHA ROLAC in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the first period from 06 to 20 September, 2017. The next report will be issued on or around 25 September 2017.

Highlights

• Hurricane Maria pummeled Dominica on 19 September, with early reports citing widespread damage and destruction.

• Reconnaissance teams have conducted flyovers and more assessment teams are expected to arrive on 21 September.

• Many organizations have suspended Hurricane Irma response activities across islands in or around Maria’s path.

• With Maria on the horizon, evacuations are underway in the Dominican Republic

Situation Overview

As Maria, a category 3 hurricane on 18 September transformed into a category 5 storm within a matter of hours, most of the islands on its path in the Caribbean braced for the brutal onslaught. As the warning was sounded, the humanitarian community had to put their relief efforts in response to Irma on hold in territories such as the British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and countries like Antigua and Barbuda expected to be in Maria’s path to support evacuation efforts and other contingency measures.

Dominica, one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, faced the full-force of the hurricane which claimed the lives of seven people on the island. The hurricane tore through the entire island, ripping rooftops, power lines and water pipelines directly or indirectly affecting the entire 70,000 odd population of the country, according to reports received by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Based on financial estimates of the impact of previous tropical storms such as Erika which made landfall on Dominica in 2015, Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of CDEMA said damage to the country could run into “billions of dollars.”

The agency has suggested that the entire population might have to be evacuated. Of particular concern, are communities in remote parts of the island, such as the indigenous Kalinago, who live in the eastern part of the island. However, the island has been cut-off from the rest of the world. Communication through phones - landlines and mobile - is down. Information has been seeping through radios. A CDEMA team conducted an assessment by air on 19 September and provided some satellite communication equipment to the country via a helicopter (footage of the damaged areas is available at https://www.facebook.com/cdemacu1/videos/1968372453438068/ ). One of the major hospitals in the country has been damaged compromising patients and CDEMA said it was trying to coordinate urgent repairs.

One of the two major airports in the island, near the capital, Roseau is flooded, while the road network to the other has been damaged. CDEMA and the humanitarian community have been forced to send relief supplies and aid personnel by sea. According to aid sources, the port in Roseau has been cleared to receive relief supplies. A UN Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team member is on his way to Dominica and is expected to arrive on 21 September. Neighbouring countries such as Saint Lucia have sent relief supplies expected to get to the island by 21 September.

Most of Dominica’s people live along the coastlines, making them extremely vulnerable to storm surges, flooding and wind damage. Some people also live in homes constructed on hill slopes in in the interior exposing them to the threat of landslides.

Guadeloupe, which faced some of Maria’s impact, with several of its road networks affected by fallen trees is making efforts to limp back to normalcy. Many thousands of people remain without power.
As Maria makes its way through the Caribbean, the aid community in Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos have already taken preemptive measures. National authorities in the Dominican Republic have been carrying out evacuations in the 13 provinces expected to be affected by Hurricane Maria.

The Dominican Republic National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), has placed eight provinces on red alert and another five provinces on yellow alert ahead of Hurricane Maria’s forecasted arrival as a major storm late on 20 September or early 21 September. The NEOC has suspended school activities in provinces under red alert and is coordinating with provincial authorities to provide adequate food supplies to shelters.

In Haiti, civil protection and disaster management authorities have placed the northern region on alert. Although Maria is not expected to pass directly over Haiti, there are concerns over the threat of flooding, landslides and storm surges in areas that were affected by Irma. The Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and the Secretariat for Risk and Disaster Management (SPGRD) are asking people in the northern regions to stay tuned to weather reports and follow security instructions if needed.

CDEMA has asked personnel in the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos responding to Irma’s impact to remain and has deployed personnel from Jamaica and Belize. The first wave of response will be coordinated by CDEMA.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.