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Dominica hit hard by Hurricane Maria

Yawu Miller | 10/13/2017, 6 a.m.
Hours before Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, it hit the ...
Donald Peters, president of Dominica State College. Banner photo

Hours before Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, it hit the Caribbean island of Dominica with the full brunt of its category 5 strength.

On the Web

For donations to Dominica: http://www.dominicarelief.org/

The 160-mile-an-hour winds ripped off roofs, flattened homes, destroyed power lines and, combined with heavy rains, washed away roads — leaving the island of 72,000 residents utterly devastated.

“Electric Power is gone,” said Donald Peters, president of Dominica State College. “Roads are gone. Schools are gone. There’s no communications.”

In Massachusetts to raise money for the rebuilding of his college, Peters, who graduated from Northeastern University, said he’s concerned for the future of the island, which he estimates will need at least $5 billion to rebuilt its ruined infrastructure.

Aid spread thin

“It’s difficult because of all the other islands seeking aid,” he said, noting that many aid organizations have focused on the devastation in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, overlooking Dominica.

While the Red Cross, USAID and Oxfam have chipped in, Peters says many Dominicans, including students at his university, are moving to Barbados and other islands that are members of the Caribbean Community, a multi-state association that shares citizenship rights.

“We are concerned about a mass migration, because the island’s population is so small,” he said.

Rebuilding

At Dominica State College, eight of the 15 buildings on campus lost their roofs, and the entire computer system was destroyed by water damage. Peters says it will cost at least $1 million to repair damage to his university. University officials hope to have repairs in place by January so students can return to class for the spring semester.

“Our focus is on rebuilding the school as quickly as possible,” he said.

In the meantime, students have gone to other universities in the Caribbean.

“Barbados has taken 50 second-year students,” Peters said. “Granada is taking more. But, of course, students will need aid to go. So that will be a challenge.”

When Peters returns to Dominica, he faces another daunting challenge: his own home, where he and his wife reside.

“Our roof is gone,” he said. “We are sleeping on the second floor with no ceiling.”