Joshua Francis
Joshua Francis

Tropical Storm Erika has exposed serious weaknesses in Dominica's disaster preparedness mechanisms, highlighting the need for proactive planning for national emergencies.

This is the view of United Workers Party (UWP) Deputy Leader Joshua Francis, who also declared that the severe impact of the storm has presented Dominica with an opportunity to "redefine and realign" governance on the island.

As such, Francis is calling for the implementation of proactive and effective disaster management planning to raise Dominica's capacity to anticipate and respond to emergencies in light of global warming, seismic activity and other phenomena. Such planning should include greater focus on high-risk areas, especially on the coasts, he said.

Furthermore, Francis noted that the storm has revealed the need for Dominica to establish new emergency response methods with appropriate supplies and equipment-- such as secure food banks, crisis centres, search and rescue vehicles and helicopters.

The Parliamentary Representative for the Roseau South Constituency contended that there is need to review land-use policies and implement better water management systems. Persons in vulnerable areas should also be relocated, he said.

He said disaster crisis centres in hard-hit areas would have facilitated the smooth distribution of disaster relief supplies after the storm and would have served as valuable liaisons with emergency response teams, the media and service providers.

Food banks would not only provide emergency food supplies, but would also store excess food supplies acquired from storm relief efforts when donors may send more food than is needed, he added.

Francis said there is a need for strong measures to stop indiscriminate cutting of trees, as well as reforestation incentives to reverse deforestation that could make the island more vulnerable to landslides and flooding.

Speaking about developments in his Roseau South Constituency, Francis said his team has accomplished much to alleviate the plight of affected residents, but a shortage of heavy equipment has slowed down river-clearing and other infrastructural works.

Francis disclosed that DOWASCO needs at least two weeks to restore water to Giraudel, Eggleston, Bubois and Upper Kingshill, which are still without water. Meantime, the Dominica Red Cross has been helping to distribute water to those communities.

Two water-holding tanks have been set up to serve Giraudel, Francis said, adding that the same is being done in the other communities while work is in progress to clear the drains in Elmshall.

Francis said he is also reaching out to his constituents personally-- especially where there was loss of life and a high state of anxiety. Two persons from Paradise Valley, Bath Estate died as a result of the storm. Others have lost their homes, he noted. As such, Francis is meeting victims to assess their losses and needs and provide the best possible comfort and relief.

He said affected persons should be patient and understand that leaders may not be able to visit all the communities immediately because the recovery exercise is very challenging with a heavy workload that takes up 16-20 hours per day.

Francis noted that he has suspended his legal practice to deal with the needs of his Constituency.

Meanwhile, Francis said he is grateful to all those who have been part of the post-Erika recovery efforts. These persons include Government offices and officials, DBS Radio, Kairi FM, Q95 and other members of the media as well as pastors and counselors.