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Dominica PM: Island's Post-Hurricane 'War Zone' Can Become 'Climate-Resilient' Model

Government of Dominica
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit (right) surveying his island nation's destruction after Hurricane Maria last month.

Since Hurricane Maria wrecked the Caribbean last month, most attention has been focused on Puerto Rico. But smaller islands like Dominica were hit even harder. WLRN spoke Wednesday with Dominica’s Prime Minister about the storm – and his plans to learn from Florida.

Dominica, in fact, was the first Caribbean island nation to feel Hurricane Maria’s Category 5, 160-mph winds. The storm killed 27 people there and 50 others are still missing.

It also blew the roof off the home of Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit. He says that was just the start of the massive devastation on one of the Caribbean’s most naturally beautiful islands.

“More than 45 percent of our country is rainforests, protected national parks," Skerrit told WLRN. "That has been decimated, battered and destroyed. You know, it’s no different from what you see in a complete war zone. Similar to what you see in Iraq. Buildings crumbling. Dark and very depressing.”

In Miami after visiting Washington, Skerrit said Dominica’s plan now is to rebuild as what he calls a “climate-resilient nation.” He sees it as a model for adapting to climate change and the stronger storms it may be spawning.

“What we’re doing is take an opportunity to build back better," Skerrit said. "And we’re now putting the master plan in place. It entails sustainable livelihoods. In respect to energy, moving more into renewables – geothermal, solar. And we’ll certainly be looking at the construction codes in the state of Florida, for example.”

Skerrit estimates Dominica’s hurricane damage at $2 billion – twice the country’s GDP.

You can hear the rest of Tim Padgett’s interview with Dominica’s Prime Minister next Tuesday on the Latin America Report.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.