Petite Savanne two years after Erika

An abandoned house in Petite Savanne

Two years after waters unleashed by Tropical Storm Erika caused wide spread death and destruction in Dominica and Petite Savanne, residents from that community say they are still struggling and are yet to recover from the effects of the storm.

Petite Savanne was declared unsafe after the storm and residents were told to evacuate the area, however, some decided to stay. Dominica News Online (DNO) visited that community on August 27, 2017, and spent hours chatting with some of them.

On arrival at the Catholic Church, which is abandoned, DNO’s reporter had to drive down to an area called ‘Regis’ to see the first sign of life. It was an elderly man doing some weeding. He lost many relatives in the storm and broke down in tears, saying he did not want to speak about the dreadful events that unfolded two years ago.

He directed DNO to other parts of the community where we met a family that was willing to speak.

A gentleman, who did not want his name revealed, recalled the day Erika came.

“It rained that day like it had never done or we had never experienced before. We sensed that something was going to happen because it never stopped,” he said.

He recounted that when day broke on August 27, he went outside and saw water rushing by and then he smelt diesel and realized that something disastrous had happened in the upper part of the village.

He recalled using his dingy to help transport persons to the Dominica and Barbados coast guards which evacuated them from the community.

“I used my dingy to help move people,” he said.

He noted that he left the community after the storm but has since returned.

“It is rough, we left for a short period but I have returned. I am a farmer and a fisherman. I have to maintain my family and while we get a small change from the government that is just not enough to sustain us,” he said.

According to him, “it is difficult to leave a place that you have been in love with all your life”.

“That is why since the incident, most of our elderly have died and some members of the community have gone senile; we have good water and food etc, it has had a deep physiological effect on them,” he stated.

His wife, who was in the kitchen frying fish, said that although the community is 95 percent abandoned, she feels “at home and comfortable in Petite Savanne.”

“This is home…I don’t have to buy fish or vegetables, we have our garden and all is available but where we reside in Roseau, it’s hard and hot, very uncomfortable,” she said.

Seventy-one-year-old Auguiste “Pal” Phillip said he is not leaving the community.

“I am not leaving my home for no one. I go in town to spend a few days with my wife but I returned,” he noted. “My wife is sick; someone is taking care of her. The government gives us help but that is not enough so I have to survive. I do bay oil – I have a distillery; I have my animals and my house. I am going nowhere.”

He added, “I am here by the grace of God. From Galbar to Regis is safe and who are these people to say Petite Savanne is not safe to stay? These are all people who have lost faith and confidence in God. God pass, he do what he was supposed to do and take what he was supposed to take and leave what he wanted to as an example.”

Phillip said he is putting his faith in God.

“I have faith and confidence in God, for he says that He will never leave and forsake me and I am depending on him,” he remarked.

He said that anyone who asks him to leave the area is not his friend since the place they are taking him is “worst than Petite Savanne.”

“I am not going anywhere,” he said defiantly.

Helena Antoine lost five members of her family and wept as she recounted the death and devastation caused by Erika

“I lost five: my son, his wife and three children,” she stated as she sobbed. “Since morning I am crying. We lost 19 in Petite Savanne; they have been to Penville and had vigil – not a thing in Petite Savanne.”

She said as a Catholic she is deeply hurt because the priest had agreed to come and have a praise and worship session but “he did not get the blessings of the Bishop.”

“As a true Catholic, it’s hurting. Oh God, why? I remember that day. I will never forget,” she sobbed.

Antoine said she was born in the community and is determined to stay there.

“I born in Petite Savannah, if I had stayed in town I would have come crazy. Trust me I can’t take the events of Roseau we need help in Petite Savanne,” she stated.

She said those she thought would have supported her during her trying times, have abandoned her.

“It is rough, It is hard. They say Petite Savannah condemned and that is why the Bishop refused to allow the priest to come say Mass,” she said.

Urban Baron, who represented the community in Parliament for over a decade, said since the storm the population of Petite Savanne has grown to 60 from the original 27 people who had defied all and never left the community despite calls by the government to do so.

“Imagine you have to buy breadfruit and the like in Roseau where you have it in Petite Savanne,” he stated when he was encountered by DNO coming from his garden. “I have no fear, death is everywhere.”

He added, “If I own a house worth over $300,000 should I leave it and run?”

He said that leaving the community should have been an option for the people since some areas are safe.

“Leaving should have been an option for people… Galbar and Regis are safe. They need to reconnect our water and electricity and allow the people to live their lives. It was a foolish decision by the government to close the road and disconnect the people; it is madness and must be immediately reviewed,” Baron stated.

Since the storm, many residents have been relocated to different areas. The government is now building a housing project for them in Bellevue Chopin and has promised that some will move in by January 2018.





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  1. Lloyd Littlewood
    September 1, 2017

    I live in the UK but my wife’s family live in PS and I have busted before and after the storm. If somewhere is unsafe after a storm I agree evacuate but I do not agree with closing the village forever more when no further safety tests have been completed and no money spent to make it safe. It was a knee jerk and immature decision by the government. After a storm the land settles and vegetation grows making the land stronger and safer. The money raised from foreign aid should have been spent on re-building the village and making it safe. Further tests should be completed and at least 3 to ensure the information is accurate. Many countries live in mountainous regions – they just build to make it safe. My wife’s family has lots of land and property, is this all now lost? The government must re-build PS and celebrate its ability to sustain and community but this takes maturity, knowledge and brace politicians not those who fly private plane

    August 31, 2017

    :?: I don’t know why some of you people want to compare the island with the U.S.A. :?: There’s so much differences between the continent and the little island rock; in terms of culture,diversity,economics,population and governance style. This is why I’m of the opinion that we should never try to have the same kind of development that the U. S.A. has. We are a rural island and we should maintain that with a development compatible to the nature of the island!

  3. Chalks Corriette
    August 31, 2017

    It has been interesting to read some of the stories and comments here. It is a shame that better analysis of the area, and of the people’s extended stories has not taken place. My grandparents are all from Petite Savanne, and my parents also. My father died recently and we buried him in the cemetery there with the rest of our family. My mother is away right now, but she still lives in PS. There may have been a government desire to have people move away – but in reality, the process was conducted poorly. There was no dialogue of any sort, some people got help and places to stay for now, others have been told there will be a house in Bellevue – they have no papers, no assurances, no sense of the conditions to acquire a house. The villagers have asked for visibility of the structural report, for their own peace-of-mind. To date, nothing. I spent time in PS in July – it was fine. The villagers will fix the roads themselves and do what government cannot. They are a community.

  4. My name is Chrissie living in.New York I just finished reading about the suituation at Pitte Savannah tears came to my eyes what I read mr Phillip said God never leaves uu nore forsake us God take what he wanted to take. God is in control Brother I went to the throne of grace on your behalf he is always ther fear not he Wil bless you hold unto his unchanging hand claim his precious promises I cannot say more if God will I will whe I come.home

  5. Zor Sot
    August 30, 2017

    My heart aches for these people….. one can never truly comprehend how they feel…. so those who may say they are crazy to return, should truly try to understand these residents’ mental and emotional state.

    I do not know if I would have been able to leave everything and settle into an evacuee shelter for 2 years.



  6. Clueless!
    August 30, 2017

    Well, they made a choice. If the Govt declared it unsafe they must have receive good advice from the experts. Very few people would want to venture into an unsafe area. To do so is at ones own risk.

  7. TeteMorne I From
    August 30, 2017

    It MUST be so painful to have to live with Erica’s memory. I understand why they cannot leave their beloved village after so many years of her being home. It still is so beautiful ! Belleview Chopin will never be home to those people, but time heals all wounds and I hope and pray that they’ll someday heal. Death surrounds us all, so there is no way one can outrun her; she’s vicious and unpredictable! Look at the folks in FLAT Texas; check out the people in the nursing home in DOWNTOWN Texas who almost drowned IN THEIR ROOMS, so “danger” is in the mind of the beholder/observer. You don’t have to live in Ti Savanne under or near a mountain to experience death and destruction.

    If they think they’re safe, them let them be and say a prayer for them, that God will show mercy on the remnants. God bless, stay safe.

  8. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    August 30, 2017

    How can such masterpiece, such (modern day Dominica ) architecture be abandoned?

    That is the type of architecture the rest of the Caribbean Skerrit say will cause them to use Dominica as a model to develop their cities, and villages eh!

    Soon we will be selling the architectural drawings to the world so that they can use Skerrit’s model to develop their country!


  9. August 29, 2017

    The sense of community and the level of nostalgia existing among the Petite savanne villagers, is very cooperative, leaving, to them is like taking their life away, as a child growing up in Delices, Petite Savanne, Bagatelle and Fon St Jean have always been my favorite villages in Dominica, the togetherness exhibited among the people living in these villages, represents the best of Dominica. I feel for them not wanting to relocate, they are leaving plenty, plenty behind, but safety ,must be counted. Bob D.

  10. The Rolling Stone PM
    August 29, 2017

    The place looks so green and beautiful that if you did not see the place a day or a week after Erika, one would never believe Petite Savanne was so badly destroyed and the same could be said of the west coast and everywhere that Erika damaged. That’s I often wonder why has the rolling stone government done since Erika to even have the guts to boast of progress. The west coast road is still very dangerous, with three bridges gone and might not be built before next election, the airport road is still a disgrace and unwelcoming, I have not seen any progress in Coulibistrie or Colihault. What we have seen is Government broke down and built an $18 million, spread millions in the name of small business all over, especially in the Vielle-case and Paix Bouche constituencies, where even drug dealers got CBI money. This rolling stone like government has so badly failed Dominica

  11. Ideal
    August 29, 2017

    The government should help the people who want to remain there. It is not easy to relocate after living your life there. Good luck to those who want to stay.

  12. DomiChina
    August 29, 2017

    Ask Skerrit what he did with the donations from across the globe

  13. The Darkness
    August 29, 2017

    I agree with you people of Petite Savanne… It is very sad how the government approached your situation, almost truly vexing.

    Yours was the BEST community in Dominica…

  14. DC
    August 29, 2017

    In my view the Government made the right decision. Most of the area is unsafe. There have been instances where it rained heavily and slides came down right in front of a few houses. What if these people remained there and got injured as a result? We would be blaming the Government. The Government is taking care of the people, paying rent, monthly allowances etc. for more than a year. This assistance for such a long period is not even available in the US. I know what I am talking about, I spent more time in my life in the US than Dominica. There was a fire next to my residence in PA, and we had to be evacuated, our building was condemned. Guess what, the Red Cross assisted for only five days, then we were on our own. The Government of Dominica has done a remarkable job!

  15. Missie
    August 29, 2017

    Key phrase ‘Some areas are safe’… Let the once almost self-sufficient people Go Back Home to the safe areas. Period.

  16. hm
    August 29, 2017

    You people expect recovery to be overnight? Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States 2005, people there are still struggling. The governments are not magicians and money don’t grow on trees. Recovery is one day at a time. You people are just looking for somebody to blame for every disaster that happens in Dominica. I fed up with you people.

  17. hm
    August 29, 2017

    You people expect recovery to be overnight? Hurricane Katrina the Gulf Coast of the United States 2005, people there are still struggling. The governments are not magicians and money don’t go on trees. Recovery is one day at a time. You people are just looking for somebody to blame for every disaster that happens in Dominica. I fed up with you people.

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