The Brits are here, all 167 of them from the Royal Navy, and with their arrival comes fresh hope for the residents of Dublanc, Bioche, Colihaut and Coulibistrie who felt the wrath of Tropical Storm Erika on the morning of Thursday, August 27, 2015.
The HADR (Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief) Troop was in the Region on an Atlantic Patrol Tasking (APT) North mission. The Unit provides assistance primarily to British Overseas Territories but also to any territory which requires assistance.
It took just one call from the Department for International Development (DFID) at the behest of the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica and on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, a mere two days later, the ship arrived in Dominica carrying cases of water, food supplies, toiletries and emergency relief stores sets that include hand tools, generators, tarpaulins, water pumps, lighting kits etc.
Twenty-four-year-old Captain Chris Swanwick, Officer in Command of the HADR Troop, explained that the ship is fully equipped to assist in relief operations.
“We have lots of big trucks that can carry around quite a lot of weight, a 15-ton truck that has its own crane at the back, a JCB tractor which has been working from dusk to dawn since we got here, small craft, a maxi craft barge used to bring the vehicles ashore and a helicopter,” he stated.
The ship is anchored just about a quarter of a mile offshore at Dublanc and the playing field there is being used as a distribution and dispatch point for the supplies and troops.
The troops are also servicing areas in the South-East and North-West via helicopter.
The British Military is being supported by the Dominica Cadet Corps headed by the Corps’ Operations Officer, Capt. Lincoln Robinson. Eight non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or senior cadets have been deployed to Dublanc while others are stationed around the island assisting the recovery efforts.
“We have been doing a lot of cleaning and removal of debris so that we can get people’s lives back to some level of normalcy.,” Robinson said. “The first project was the Coulibistrie public convenience so persons can have access to it and the next step will be the primary school. We would have to first clear the high pile of silt around the school that is preventing the water and mud from flowing out of the ground floor of the school and then power wash it.”
Capt. Robinson believes that, while the tropical storm was a natural disaster, the magnitude of it was perhaps man-made.
“A lot of the problem is that you have people who do cultivation close to the river area and even not too close but what they do is they leave all the trees and the debris lying there because they figure it’s not affecting their home or the nearby community.,” he stated. “When the water comes and it brings everything down then it causes the kind of destruction that is beyond our comprehension so I’d like to tell individuals if they cleaning, cutting trees, they need to get rid of them in the best possible places so that those types of destruction wouldn’t reoccur.”
The HADR Troop was deployed to the areas in the north by the national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and anticipates that they will be in Dominica for a few more days.