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(source: WIC News)

The prime minister of Dominica has expressed his amazement over how resilient his country in an address to the nation, but he warned that the island will face a tough battle as it recovers from Hurricane Maria.

Speaking from the capital Roseau, Roosevelt Skerrit said he continues to “marvel at the sense of purpose and determination that characterises the attitude and approach of Dominicans” following the carnage brought by the category five storm.

But the prime minister, who lost his own home when the 160mph winds hit on 18 September, did not mince his words when describing the challenges ahead.

“Citizens and residents, we are in the preliminary stages of the greatest disaster that has ever hit our nation,” he said.

“I will not pretend to you otherwise: We have before us many, many months of sacrifice and struggle.”

Describing Hurricane Maria as the greatest disaster the country has ever faced, he offered hope for the future.

“This greatest disaster will yield our finest moment.

“We will go forward together, and our united and inflexible resolve, will make us invincible.

“Do not stoop to panic, or fearmongering on social media. Be confident that together we will build a new Dominica.”

Plan for recovery

The dire situation in Dominica is slowly showing signs of improvement. Water and relief supplies are reaching even the most remote communities and communication is improving every day.

Even the greenery, which marked the country out as the Nature Island, is returning in places.

More than 250 tonnes of food and 169,000 litres of water have been distributed to over 93 communities on the island.

Commercial air traffic has been granted permission to begin again at Douglas-Charles Airport, and the government hopes to reopen Roseau’s ferry terminal within days – depending on the water and electricity supply.

Schools will open again on a case-by-case basis.

The prime minister announced a 12-point recovery plan, which included the six-moth suspension of tax and duty on imported food and construction material, the establishment of a consumer watchdog to ensure there is no “profiteering and price gouging”, and voluntary advances on government salaries of up to $2,000.

A source of anxiety has been insurance payouts, but Skerrit addressed this during his speech.

“Insurance of property in Dominica exceeds 100% of our annual GDP [gross domestic product],” he said.

“Not all insured properties are totally destroyed thankfully, but we expect substantial insurance payouts to be made over the next few months.

“We will work with local and international insurance companies and banks to expedite the arrival of loss assessors and the flow of insurance payouts at lower transaction fees.”

Skerrit’s administration is also planning to enforce – and if necessary, update – building codes to ensure all new properties comply with them.