Roland Laronde: "I was trapped front and back"
Maria Story #11: By Carlisle Jno Baptiste
Roland Laronde, 63, of Newtown lived in a dilapidated family house new the Fatima Church but drug addicts locally known as paros forced him out. Then Hurricane Maria struck.
"I was at Castle Comfort under the Busy Bubble laundry mart during the passage of Hurricane Maria. I was forced to abandon my house near the Fatima Catholic Church because it was invaded by the paros in the area. They would use the porch of my house to smoke and sell drugs and I was helpless in stopping them. So I decided to look for shelter elsewhere and abandoned my home," he said.
He told the SUN, that before the hurricane, he was hit by a vehicle which fractured his leg so his movement was greatly affected.
"I knew that a hurricane was coming but never expected it to have been so bad and devastating. So, during the passage of the storm when I saw what was going on I tried to escape since water from the river was gashing down rapidly and where I was, ( under the Busy Bubble laundry mart) had become unsafe. The water was already reaching my chest from the river and the sea was also making it very difficult for me to go…so I was trapped front and back," Laronde said with a chuckle in his voice.
He continued: "It was dark, I was scared and terrified but it was a matter of survival for me. I was alone and had to fight to stay alive. So I decided to swim to find rescue out of the death trap that I was in. I swam to the front of the laundry and on arrival almost like a miracle I saw a tree in the water which I was able to hold on to and climb to the steps and held on the crossbar of the door until I saw two people approaching with lights. I called out to them it was a woman Tammy (Tamara Shillingford) her uncle and another guy."
"They came to my rescue, took me from the death trap that I was in and placed me under Robo's Gas Station. I was wet shivery and cold. Tammy was like a Good Samaritan a God sent. She then went back to her home and returned with dry clothes for me…I was thankful it was just past 4am. I stayed under the Gas Station for two weeks…I was given a mattress from someone who looted at Courts Castle Comfort to lie on as my bed. During that time passersby would give me looted items to eat and others would give me a hot meal now and again including Kentish who used to bring breakfast and lunch for me every day. I was not able to walk and so Tammy used to come for me daily and take me to the nearby river for a bath," he said.
Laronde said he was then moved to a shelter at the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) where he stayed for a long time before moving to a long house at the back of the stadium provided by the Government.
"While at the shelter at the DGS I had many visitors who promised to assist me by fixing my home which is damaged and give me food. To date I have seen not one of them and my house remains damaged and uninhabited while I struggle for survival," he said.
Does he want to witness another hurricane like Maria?
"No, no, way…I witnessed Hurricane David and now Maria and it can't be compared. In 1979, my grandmother was alive and our house in Fatima had a basement so we were able to shelter Hurricane David there. My experience with Hurricane Maria was "scary" and I don't want to encounter such an experience again," he said.