Looters speak: "It was all about survival"
Maria Story # 10: By Carlisle Jno Baptiste
Looting after Hurricane Maria that devastated Dominica on 18th September 2017 dominated the news lately when business owners demanded a "public inquiry" into the operation of police officers who allowed looting to escalate after the deadly storm.
Business owners claim that after the storm men, women and children took goods from their stores by force or without right, in other words looted. They said hordes of persons broke and entered premises that were not damaged by Maria and stole items, in some instances in the full view of the police.
Two individuals who claimed that they looted spoke to the SUN, on the condition that we withhold their identities. Here is what one of the looters, a woman, said:
"I left my house to go and watch the destruction which was caused by Hurricane Maria. On arrival by Courts, a business place in Dominica, I saw a number of people gathered there and I saw them taking items from that place. I was not prepared for looting; I was in shock at the damage caused by the hurricane but it was all about survival".
She said since her house was damaged and she had lost everything she decided to join in the looting.
"We used wheel barrows and grocery carts to also assist us in carrying some of the items…some of us carried stuffs on our head while others had man-power to assist us in going with the items looted. It was just survival time; some of us took turns in helping the other to carry," she said.
Asked if they had any regrets for their actions, the other looter quickly said, "No, no, no…I have no regrets in looting and if the situation presents itself again I will surely do it again but in a smarter way.
"Many of those companies have accumulated millions of dollars on Dominicans over the years, so we feel no way in doing it. They are insured and trust me, it was not a big loss for them. Some of them have reorganized their businesses while we the people are still struggling and yet to get back on our feet, so that was our mood of survival; in fact we were in survival mood at the time.
"I can tell you that if we had not gone to loot, we would have starved since the relief supplies which came later were not adequate to feed us from our hunger and starvation. We basically survived on the food that we had looted before the relief supplies came our way.
"I am one who is against destroying people's places and then looting the items there; however, if your place was destroyed and the goods were exposed, what is the point in people taking them instead of you throwing them away? Looting was the last thing on my mind since I was in survival mood trying to stay alive".
Answering the question: if there was another hurricane would you loot again, one of the looters said: "I would have done it differently, some of us who looted destroyed places and even wasted items preventing others from getting it that was wrong. I saw people bursting flour bags to put alcohol. If I had to do it all over again I would do it smarter because later when I saw police coming to homes searching (they also searched my home but found nothing) it was scary. We looted openly and bold face and everybody see who taking items and when the police came people were selling-out each other as they were scared,"
The male looter concurred.
The female looter added: "In the event of another natural disaster the authorities' needs to be more prepared for the disaster to come which is looting. I saw people looting at Whitchurch in the presence of the police who was also distributing, telling people you take too much...take this and take that. People are also being sent to jail for looting and I think it's unfair.
"We all lose in life; we just need to move on after that. Some even lost their jobs…I saw police officers looting, prominent people in society along with their children looted with us. It did not have mal-lay-way or aristocrat- all of us looted."