There were sounds of happy laughter and then there were those of tears as relatives and friends were reunited for the first time following Tropical Storm Erika’s devastation of the once buzzing community of Petite Savanne, well-known for its production of bay oils and local rums.
Tears spilled freely down cheeks from puffy eyes and the embraces and kisses seemed to go on forever.
Dominica News Online (DNO) caught up with two reunited families– the Antoines and Stoutes– at the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) grounds on Monday August 31.
They had made a journey to Roseau by sea just moments before from the place they once called home, carrying only their most cherished possessions.
Bertillia Antoine of Petite Savanne told DNO that she lost “many loved ones,” including her brother and in-laws, and leaving her home was “very difficult.”
“But we had to…we didn’t have a choice and to see that another storm is coming, you can’t stay there,” she said.
She vividly recalled the night of Tropical Storm Erika.
“It was just raining a lot, a lot of lightning and thunder—normal. To me, it wasn’t even raining that heavy and next day things just start happening.”
She stated that about 9am on Friday, landslides began coming down and the village began caving in.
Antoine’s husband, Bartholomew, said he lost 12 loved ones in the storm including two sisters, two brothers and brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, and nieces.
“It’s just a sad thing. It’s just sad; I can’t understand,” he said sadly.
He noted that villagers had to go through landslides to get to the seaside. When they arrived there, those who were able took a small fishing boat to get to the coast guard vessel, but those who were not able to, were hoisted away by helicopter.
When they arrived on the Police base, in Fond Cole, a bus took them to the DGS for registration. Those who could be housed at relatives met them there and left with them. Those who could not were logged in, given some food and accommodated at the temporary shelter.
He said it was a “struggle” for the evacuees to bring their vulnerable within their midst to the shore. Asked what happened to his home and how badly damaged it was, he replied that there were a few landslides in close proximity to his property, but the house itself is still intact.
He admitted that it was “very, very, hard,” to leave his home, “because seeing that you are coming to a place you don’t even know about, we just have to start all over again.”
Originally from the Kalinago Territory, Benedict Stoute, told DNO that she was asleep when the storm hit Petit Savanne, “So when I wake up there were a lot of slides in the place.”
According to her, there was only one small landslide at the back of her house, “But I still say I’m not staying there; I want to go,” she explained.
She said all members of her family of three are alive and well and no relative of hers died in the tragedy.
“Well, everybody leave we; the government take out everybody there, there clean, clean, clean; houses alone that remain and landslides.”
When asked about her plans, she said she might return to the Kalinago territory.
The Antoines, at the moment are staying with family members in the city.