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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 47 - Friday August 29, 2003
Remembering Hurricane David
by Thomson Fontaine

On August 29, 1979, Dominicans awoke to news of an impending hurricane David that had a high probability of reaching the Island. No one living in Dominica at that time appeared to take the warnings seriously. They would live to forever regret their complacency.

Most people under the age of fifty had not lived through any serious hurricane. Although there was a spattering of hurricanes in the sixties, most notable Hurricane Edith, most everyone agreed that the last real major hurricane was the famous one of 1930. Hurricanes generally meant a few bowed trees and at worst a devastated banana crop and some flooding.

So it was when David unleashed its 150 mph winds and untold inches of rain on an unsuspecting Nation, the result were complete chaos and wanton destruction. By the time the winds moved north after close to eight hours of constant pounding, thirty-two people were dead including an entire family of nine drowned in a fast flowing river.

Beyond the deaths and injuries, the economic damage was staggering. Many estimated that Dominica’s progress was postponed by at least ten years. The banana crop was completely destroyed. Livestock, birds, and all manner of crops were obliterated. Roads and bridges were washed away. Telephone lines were completed destroyed. Worse the fragile eco-system was severely damaged as the trees so crucial for maintaining water levels were torn from their roots.

Entire mountains were laid bare. The destruction was complete and total. Ravines became rivers and rivers turned into raging torrents of water. What David did not carry away, individuals did. As the Nation recoiled under the horror of the fierce winds, looters took to the streets of Roseau in an orgy of looting. No shop or business place was spared. Everything not carried away by the wind was carted away by someone. Goods stored at the seaport were also looted and even individual homes were not spared.

David also had its share of heroes. Hundreds of acts of heroism were carried out that day, like the selfless people who risked the high wind and flying debris, which could kill in an instant, to check on a neighbor or pull them to safety from under collapsed buildings. Fred White became the lone voice to communicate Dominica’s fate via ham radio to a waiting world.

Later, the French, British and American military would send food aid and personnel to help in the reconstruction effort. Dominicans leaving overseas would mobilize their efforts to send clothing and food. Caribbean governments also pitched in, and the road to recovery was begun.

Before this episode ended, Dominicans would have to get used to walking over long distances, to standing patiently in line for food supplies, to sorting through “Brogodough” (local word for assistance given in kind), to wait months for school to reopen. Also, to build shattered lives from scratch as more than eighty percent of homes were either totally or partially destroyed. It would take a lot longer to forget that fateful Day in August when Mother Nature unleashed her terrifying punishment on the island.

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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 47
My Mother's Race, My Identity
Remembering Hurricane David
The Paradox of Life
PM Statement on DOMLEC
New Book to be Released

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