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'Dominica cannot rebuild itself'

DAMAGES: The caribbean island of Dominica was struck by a deadly tropical storm two weeks ago

THE DOMINICAN diaspora globally have united in the relief effort to rebuild the eastern Caribbean island two weeks after it was ravaged by a tropical storm.

A preliminary assessment of the damage from Tropical Storm Erika has been estimated at $226 million (£150 million), nearly half of the island’s gross domestic product. The death toll is reported to have risen to 31 with dozens still unaccounted for.

In response to the disaster, which is said to have set the country back 20 years, neighbouring Caribbean countries were first in supplying personnel, helicopter airlifts, medical supplies, bottled water and other essentials.

In the UK, both corporations and members of the diaspora have also joined the relief effort.
JP Shipping’s east London arm, JP RAM, has partnered with the Dominican High Commission in the UK to offer free shipping through the government and discounts for individuals.

Rob Smith, managing director of JP shipping, said: “We mobilised I think fairly quickly, our business relies on Dominica as well as many other Caribbean islands and I think it’s just as important to put something back into the countries that we do business with and I think we were all pretty horrified at the scale of the disaster.

“We decided to call the High Commissioner to ask if there was some sort of official relief programme going on and we took a decision that we’d do whatever we could to assist the effort.”

Using his skills to raise funds for Dominica is fitness enthusiast Ross Mathieu who will be hosting a soca-themed exercise class on October 1 at Forest Gate Community School, Forest Gate. 

Mathieu said to The Voice: “My granddad is from Dominica and a lot of the people I teach are from all over the Caribbean, as well as Dominica so hearing about the storm really struck a chord.”

JUMP AND WAVE: UK residents are supporting the island through various initiatives

The karate champion, who frequently hosts highly in-demand fitness classes, is hoping his soca special will be his best event to date to make an impact on Dominica’s road to recovery.

“I truly believe every one of us through our small contributions can make a massive difference. I typically charge £5 for a class but I will be charging £10 for the fundraiser and I hope people will support as all the proceeds will be going to Dominica.”

As well as raising money, Mathieu is also keen to raise the profile of the disaster, something he feels has gone under the radar: “I want there to be continued awareness of what’s happened,” he said.

“I’ve been speaking to a lot of people and they’re not entirely aware of the extent of what’s happened because it isn’t getting as much publicity as other events happening right now which I think is affecting how people are responding to the disaster.”

At the time of going to press, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was urging citizens to take precautionary measures in bracing for the possibility of impact by another storm, this time Tropical Storm Grace, which was forecast to weaken as it moved closer towards the Lesser Antilles.

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