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Dominica – A chilling reminder

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If ever we were becoming complacent about our susceptibility to storm damage, given the hitherto storm-free hurricane season this year, last Wednesday brought a chilling reminder of how much we are in the danger zone.

The tropical storm, Erika, which caused such death and destruction in Dominica was no “superstorm”, no category 5, no David (which hit that island in 1979), no Ivan, as in Grenada in 2006, no Katrina which devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast of the USA 10 years ago, but it has left behind it a trail of human and infrastructural destruction.{{more}} Dominica’s development process has been effectively derailed as a result.

Most tragic of all has been the substantial loss of life. While Eastern Caribbean islands have been hit time and again by natural disasters, it is rare in these parts for the death toll to be so substantial. It is bad enough to suffer such great environmental destruction, but the tragic loss of so many lives has given an added, fatal twist to the suffering and sorrow in our sister island.

As SEARCHLIGHT extends our sympathy to the people of Dominica and our solidarity with its embattled government, we call on all Vincentians to contribute in whatever way possible both to the urgent relief effort, as well as to the longer recovery and reconstruction process. We know what it is to be on the wrong end of natural disasters, though thankfully, we have been spared significant loss of lives, as experienced by our unfortunate Dominican sisters and brothers.

When we have been affected, such as by Tomas in 2010, the April 2011 floods, the Christmas storm of two years ago, or before that, by the volcanic eruption of 1979, the same year that Dominica was razed by hurricane David, our brothers and sisters in the region, Dominica included, and the international community came to our rescue. They gave generously. We must now reciprocate in our own humble manner.

Yet, there is more to it than the devastation and response. The deadly tropical storm which struck Dominica has delivered a powerful message to us all in the region. It is a brutal reminder of our own vulnerability to the vicissitudes of the weather in this part of the world. Simply put, we live in perpetual risk of danger from natural disasters.

This danger has been accentuated in recent times by the effects of climate change, which not even the doubting Thomases or human ostriches can any longer deny. It is a phenomenon which we have not yet, collectively, taken as seriously as we should. More and more we are experiencing these destructive storms and they seem to be intensifying.

In just over three months’ time, representatives of the nations of the world will meet in Paris in a global Conference on Climate Change, seeking international consensus on how to tackle it. Countries like ours, vulnerable as we are, have a great stake in the outcome of this conference.

It is a matter which should not just rest on the shoulders of those in political office; it directly affects each and every one of us. We need to pay attention to such matters, to seek information and educate ourselves about it to ensure that our young ones, in school and at home, are made aware and that environmental consciousness becomes a part of our being.

That must be the lasting legacy of the tragedy in Dominica.

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