Photos: Storm Erika leaves 20 dead, 31 missing on Dominica island
At least 20 people have lost their lives and dozens of others are missing after Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica and left a trail of destruction on the small Caribbean island state.
“So far we have confirmed that at least 20 citizens have died, and some are missing,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late on Friday.
Officials with the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency also said at least 31 people have been reported missing on the island, which houses about 72,000 people.
A particularly wet storm, Erica has dumped some 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain on Dominica, unleashing floods and mudslides and causing damage to the mountainous island’s infrastructure, roads and bridges.
“The visual damage I saw today, I fear, may have set our development process back by 20 years,” the premier said.
“This is a period of national tragedy,” he said, adding that “floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable.”
The storm also soaked the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean nation, after it slid south of Puerto Rico, where it caused more than USD 16 million in damage to crops.
According to the US National Hurricane Center in Miami, Erika is expected to head toward the high mountains on the island of Hispaniola, which could help weaken the storm to a tropical depression on Saturday and possibly cause it to dissipate.
It could, however, regroup off northern Cuba and people in the US state of Florida should brace for heavy rain, said John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center.
“This is a potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state,” he added.