Letang says the cost of repairing damaged fire stations will be big

Officials of the Dominica Fire & Ambulance Service are disclosing that while their building suffered extensive damage during the passage of Hurricane Maria on September 18, 2017, they were forced to mount several “search and rescue missions” to save people who were in difficulties.

Sub Station Officer and Public Relations Officer (PRO) Wayne Letang of the Dominica Fire & Ambulance Service said it was a “horrifying night for fire officers.”

“We first had a call from the Chief Fire Officer that all Fire Officers who were off duty and on leave that they should report to the nearest fire station,” he said.

Speaking to DNO in an exclusive interview, Letang explained that all eight fire stations on the island were properly manned.

“I also need to say that all our fire stations were impacted in one way or the other by Hurricane Maria.  In Roseau, the entire upstairs was affected and the 0fficers had to seek shelter in (a) tight space downstairs where they had to seek rescue,” the PRO stated.

He continued, “It must be noted that the Roseau River also affected the fire station in Roseau as its waters entered and made significant damage. During the night it was extremely difficult for us since we were flooded and had to rescue a number of people. In fact, a man from River Street came with two children for rescue and told us about some foreign nationals who were swept away by the raging waters and we had to also go and assist others who were distressed.”

“Some walked in during the storm; we also received several calls of people asking for help. We went as far as Loubiere; braved the weather. It was just a terrible night that we just don’t want to remember. All fire officers were all hands on deck, hats off to them all amidst the challenge that we faced.”

Asked for an estimated cost of the damages done to the fire stations on the island, Letang said the figure was still being put together and he expects it to be “big.”

“The engineers have done the estimates for the damages done so far. We are down with our landlines in the out districts. Our antennas are damaged. We suffered heavy structural damage. Vehicle damage and so on,” he said.

Letang is calling on people to be “smart and build safe.” “We are in the recovery stage. Safety first, now is the ideal time to do things better. Corrosion can lead to electrocution. We have to clean but the burning done during the night is not good and we ask people to stop that practice. Most houses are covered with tarpaulin since it’s a petro carbon and its fuel for fire…be careful.”

“Candles at night, remember, don’t fall asleep with candles at night. During Maria we had in excess of 365 rivers, people be careful of where you build, a bed is where people sleep and a river bed is where the river sleeps, stop and think and don’t build on the river bed,” he said.

Letang also praised fire officers who braved the weather and went to rescue people and all those who “for days camped in the cramped and wet conditions at the fire station assisting in all ways.”