ERIKA’S ECHOES: A family’s nightmare

Sebastian's home was carried away by the raging waters of Erika
Sebastian’s home was carried away by the raging waters of Erika

Wilfred Sebastian was born in 1943 and has been a resident of the village of Colihaut all his life. He is a former Teacher, Principal, Education Officer and Chief Education Officer but nothing in life could have prepared him for the onslaught of Tropical Storm Erika.

“We were told that TS Erika was approaching but that it would not have much impact on us so we were more or less relaxed,” he explained. “Around 9:00/10:00 in the morning the rains continued to pour down as though it would never stop and the rivers started to grow and grow in size and width and power and we were just wondering how close it would come to where we were living.”

It didn’t take long for him to find out as the river began to roar and travel in their direction, shoveling everything in its path, including Sebastian’s house which remains one of the iconic images of TS Erika’s wrath, sunken in the silt at the mouth of the Colihaut River.

“Normally, the river would go more south but it came more north and we realized we were in trouble. Already a stone wall nearby was carried away. We could hear the huge boulders coming down the river. We realized it was going to be a different day for us,” he recalled.

The Sebastians are lucky to be alive
The Sebastians are lucky to be alive

The power of the river began hitting against the walls of the ground floor while he and his family stood on the verandah upstairs looking at the disaster unfolding before their eyes. Boulders began to hit the lower part of the house and then they saw the river rising higher and higher. It was only when the house started to shake that they became concerned but they survived because of their granddaughter.

“We felt some shakes, like a quake. The river was beginning to move the house and when I heard, ‘Grandpa, grandpa, this house is moving. We have to get out. We must get out’ and luckily our house was connected to my late father’s house by a back step because going out the front was out of the question. That’s where the river was raging. We escaped to that house,” he noted.

Before they realized it, the house had disappeared and every single thing in the two-story house was washed away.

“From pots, pans, school books and uniforms, already ironed for the new school term, to televisions, furniture, shoes and food, everything that was in the house vanished. The car disappeared and we didn’t see when. All we saw was the vacant spot where it was. After the storm blew over, we could see parts of the car; it was a green car and then we realized that it was one of the cars that sits on its hood in the sea. We identified it by the wheels that are barely visible above the surface,” he noted.

The garage and kitchen were housed downstairs but looking at the structure you would think that it was a house on pillars. The downstairs section is nowhere to be seen, save for a broken slab of concrete that would have been part of the garage.

Just next door, his brother’s house was totally annihilated; gone without a trace. Luckily the house was not occupied.

Sebastian's home after the storm
Sebastian’s home after the storm

Sebastian’s wife, joined the conversation and described what happened next. She said that the current then began to pull things from under the house in which they sought refuge but by that time, thankfully, the strength was dissipating and the water receding.

“The river seemed to have how many legs, like an octopus. One leg was there, one in the middle, another one here. I’ve never seen that before and the current, the current. That river was raging and some vehicles went down and stuck under the bridge up there so that made it worse. Then it started to undermine the house we were now in but thankfully the water started to subside,” she noted.

Pointing to the road that runs north-south alongside their house, Mrs. Sebastian said that road became another leg of the river.

“The road in front the house turned into a river and we are in the tail so we got everything, from every angle. That river was raging. It was so upset. I don’t know what was happening. I’ve been here for the past 45 years or more and first time I see that. I was trembling and, as though, up to now I’m not okay. To me I’m not myself after what I saw; I was shaking like a leaf. I will be 70 in December and it was not a good experience for me at all.”

The Sebastians are happy that they moved out in time and happier to be alive. Things could have been much worse for them if they had stuck around on the verandah of their home for another minute. For sure, they would not have been around to tell their tale and the village of Colihaut would have been in deep mourning for a treasured family.

Thankfully, this was not the case.

 

Disclaimer: The comments on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of DominicaNewsOnline.com/Duravision Inc. All comments are approved by DominicaNewsOnline.com before they are posted. We never censor based on political or ideological points of view, but we do try to maintain a sensible balance between free speech and responsible moderating.

We will delete comments that:

  • violate or infringe the rights of any person, are defamatory or harassing or include personal attacks
  • are abusive, profane or offensive
  • contain material which violates or encourages others to violate any applicable law
  • promote hatred of any kind
  • refer to people arrested or charged with a crime as though they had been found guilty
  • contain links to "chain letters", pornographic or obscene movies or graphic images
  • are excessively long and off-message

See our full comment/user policy/agreement.

24 Comments

  1. A.J. Sulfaro
    September 21, 2015

    What you lost was material What you gained was strength. The two of you will now be closer than ever, I know because a tragedy hit my family twice My wife and I pulled thru it and so will you. God is good he will be there for you you do not have to ask Him just close your eyes ans he is there.
    God Bless Your Family. My prayers are with you from miles away.

  2. Pipirit
    September 15, 2015

    Always wondered about this family since TSErica.
    Saw the video this morning and now the story…
    I am in shock 1) I know the family and 2) I’ve been to that very
    house, that was washed away….So very sad for these
    two great people. …MR Sebastien worked with the government
    of Dominica’s all his life, to retire to such is heartbreaking. .
    They’ve lost everything, but most importantly they
    still have each other!!!
    In everything we give God thanks…
    My wish that God restores them 100 fold…

  3. The Real Facts
    September 12, 2015

    Oh My! What a chilling story and experience. The river was raging and angry. It was nearing its destination, the sea, after creating other havoc in the interior and as it descended which is why it subsided. Thank God all of you escaped.
    Mrs. Sebastian. I am not a doctor :) but my advice to you, if you still feel nervous and shaky which I expect you would, ask the pharmacist for “Vitamin Stress Tablets.” This could help calm you.
    I once had a very stressful job at a financial institution where, especially the rich invested a lot of money. The phone never stopped ringing and we also never stopped working. I bought vitamin stress tabs which helped me work calmly and peacefully.
    At the end of the day the manager said to me I was the only one who was calm. :lol: She was flustered and her face would be red. This is how stressful that place was. My faith helped. :) I heard she got a heart attack. She was in her forties.
    If you can get some, try a bottle.

    • The Real Facts
      September 12, 2015

      Thank God, so far, so good. I do not take medication. I suppose one day, as I age, I will have to. If I have a choice, I will do my utmost not to take any. For now, I take Vitamins daily, as a supplement.

  4. Pondera
    September 12, 2015

    What a horrible experience! But there is life.

  5. more water
    September 12, 2015

    I know him, very nice man, sorry to hear that Sir,,

  6. Douglas sebastian
    September 12, 2015

    As I read this it make me want to cry. For some reason it can’t get to my head how this happen. I feel very very sorry about what has happened. And I praise God that they moved out in time and has been safe.god is good. This is very very very sad. I was reading the story an I had to stop.

  7. Shawty
    September 11, 2015

    Oh my this is so sad to hear aunt Clavia

  8. out of south city
    September 11, 2015

    Listening to the couple tell their story was heart-breaking. I could feel the pain in their voices. In any case, they are alive and that’s most important. Hopefully they will be assisted with a dwelling place where they can continue their lives.
    So sorry that you have lost everything. Continue to be thankful for life because it could be worse.

    PEACE

  9. Elizabeth Ludovique
    September 11, 2015

    Keep telling the story that will help you get over it talk and talk about it

  10. Fr. Franklyn Cuffy,
    September 11, 2015

    Dear Mr. & Mrs. Sebastian, I would like to express my gratitude to you for sharing your traumatic story with us on DNO. You have indeed open the door to assist many of us who were affected by the Tropical Storm Erika. I found Schuyler K. Esprit PhD. in the Chronicle of Friday, 11 September 2015 very informative and helpful. Please read article on page 18. The World Rivers Day Committee is planning a day to memorized and honor lost Family and Friends. This day will begin with Church Services followed by a gathering and sharing of “Stories” from 11:00 am, on Sunday 27 September. You, Family and Friends are welcome to join us.

    Fr. Franklyn Cuffy, GC-C
    Certified Grief Counselor.

  11. world peace
    September 11, 2015

    very sad story. i am concerned about the lady, she seem to be pretty shaken up still. could some relevant authorities recommend counselling for her.

  12. gweneth joseph
    September 11, 2015

    The Sebastian family so sorry to learn of your loss.Trust God in your moment of need.I know he will see u thru your darkest hour.

  13. September 11, 2015

    Oh my

  14. Anthony P. Ismael
    September 11, 2015

    No words.

  15. Francisco Telemaque
    September 11, 2015

    You know I do have empathy for such people who suffered such great loss; in the Sebastian’s case they, seems to have lost everything; at seventy (73) years old it is almost impossible for them to regain their losses, unless their property was insured against such perils or they have millions in a bank account.

    This should be used as a learning experience for our people: when one invest in a home, it is a wise idea to buy flood, and fire insurance, that is imperative in a place such as ours; as a matter of fact buy a policy which covers all perils, so that when the un-expecting occurs, one can rest easy, until the insurance companies settle their claims.

    • Zandoli
      September 11, 2015

      Partner, unfortunately for most people insurance is a luxury few can afford. I don’t know of their personal circumstance but I know for a fact few people in DA have homeowners insurance.

      Not only that, some of the policies are written with such high deductibles that, unless the entire house us destroyed, you get very little after you make a claim.

      I will give you an example. My grandmother’s house got damaged during an earthquake a few years ago. She has always had insurance on the property. So she made a claim. They wanted to deduct a certain percentage of the value of the house as the deductible. But they placed the valuation against house and LAND. So my grandmother, with the help of her son argued that the since the land almost never is affected, it should not be part of the valuation and therefore they should restrict the valuation on the building. They agreed and that reduced the deductible substantially.

      • girly girly
        September 11, 2015

        Insurance Companies always always find a way to screw people over.

      • Francisco Telemaque
        September 11, 2015

        Believe you me, I understand fully well that home owners insurance could be a burden on even the few who has jobs, it is a pity someone has worked all their life, and in their retirement years lost everything as victims of a storm.

        It is very painful to see the devastation of that place, I can see the pain on that mans face, anyway where there is life there is hope. I do not want to bring politics into this, nevertheless, there are the people who at this time should be receiving a free house from the government.

        In good times there are young body able persons who were recipients of free house, at the expense of the government; I hope by the time this is all over the Sebastian’s will be given a free house too.

      • Independent Observer
        September 12, 2015

        I know for a fact …..??…. Oh please!!!!!! These embellishments and hyperbole weaken arguments or even interesting points. NB for future posts.

        Sorry about your experience with grandma. Insurance companies are vultures. I’m surprised they and their agents haven’t started circling yet.

      • The Real Facts
        September 12, 2015

        Depend on insurance companies to try to avoid dishing out money. They are quick to collect it though from policy holders. Insurance companies are the richest in the world.

    • Independent Observer
      September 12, 2015

      With insurance companies you can’t rest easy until you see the check in your hand with fewer numbers than you had envisaged.

    • The Real Facts
      September 12, 2015

      There are times insurance companies could state, “Unless it is an act of God”, which means bad weather, they will not cover it. Note, some of them do not want to hear of the Holy Name of God but they will state it in their insurance policies and other agreements. Can you believe that?

  16. Michael
    September 11, 2015

    Listening to them, it’s heartbreaking

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:) :-D :wink: :( 8-O :lol: :-| :cry: 8) :-? :-P :-x :?: :oops: :twisted: :mrgreen: more »

 characters available