Tales of bravery heroism and death in Dominica during Hurricane Maria

Tales of bravery heroism and death in Dominica during Hurricane Maria

By Thomson Fontaine

October 03, 2017 11:14 A.M

maria debris
Trees plucked from the hills and floated down river find their way on the streets of Pointe Mitchel.
Roseau, Dominica (TDN) - During this past two weeks we have heard of harrowing tales of death and survival as men pitted their strengths against the mighty winds of hurricane Maria.

Some described the winds as thousands of demons trying to suck them from their homes others experienced certain death as doors and windows were ripped apart, and roofs torn away. Ravines which had flowed quietly barely perceptible became raging torrents of swift moving water that demolished homes and piled tons of debris and stones where furniture once stood.

Indeed the tales to emerge from Maria will be told for a long time to come. Stories of heroism and bravery. In Loubiere one young man lost his life attempting to save two of his neighbor’s young children. The parents survived but the young man was swept away along with the children as the effort proved futile.

Celia Prosper visiting her homeland from London survived certain death by holding onto her mattress which floated above water and debris that had entered her home. The water rose close to the ceiling but she survived.

hurricane maria
Celia Prosper inside this bedroom escaped by clinging onto a mattress as the debris and water rose in her house.
Another couple in the Loubiere area were not so lucky. As the river surged into their homes they attempted to escape but faced the daunting waves of the Caribbean Sea that had become towering 15 foot swells.

Across the length and breadth of the country acts of heroism were repeated as neighbors braved the elements to pluck the less fortunate from their crumbling homes. Some played games of ‘musical house’ darting from house to house as each one crumbled in turn.

One man clung all night long to the back of his abandoned car wedged between the car and the road surface. Using all his strength he pulled down on the back of the car as it rocked in the wind. Another crouched terrified behind a drum filled with water as debris flew over his head. Thankfully he was not injured.

Others were not so lucky and even after surviving the storm death still visited. At least one man died after being pricked by a nail and not receiving treatment in time. Another died when her oxygen ran out. Yet another succumbed days after Maria when he was unable to access his medication.

At the Princess Margaret Hospital at least two patients admitted after the storm when debris fall on their heads died.

Monday September 18, 2017 is a day that few living in Dominica will ever forget. There had been no major storm for at least 38 years and the latest Dominican generation could not have imagined nature’s fury. When Maria descended on the island it did so with a rage and fury borne out of perfect conditions that allowed it to move from a category 2 storm with 100 mile an hour winds to a category 5 storm in a jaw dropping two short hours.

By three o’clock that afternoon some had already began to relax because they were told that the storm would arrive at around noon. Others casually went about their day without paying too much attention to repeated warnings, particularly on Q FM Radio station that a monster storm was on its way and that they needed to seek shelter.

hurricane maria
Only a mattress remains where this house once stood.
By early morning of the next day the toll was evident. More than 72 persons had died the majority from being washed away by the floods. Giant trees, which had stood silent watch over the island lay bare, uprooted and discarded. Rivers forged new courses or regained old ones. Across the island the color brown was stamped throughout where once only green prevailed.

More than 80 percent of homes were either completely destroyed or their roofs blown away even as scores of people were counting their blessings happy to be on the list of those surviving Maria.

With the coming and going of the days much will be reflected upon. For instance could more have been done to save lives, should there be mandatory evacuation orders? What about the outfitting of shelters to withstand Maria-like winds, which no doubt will keep coming our way. And perhaps more importantly how do we prepare better into the future.

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