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In Dominica, the inhabitants remain stoic in the most total chaos after Maria

Ⓒ AFP – Lionel CHAMOISEAU – | A neighborhood of Canefield in Dominica, four days after Hurricane Maria, September 22, 2017

A little less than a week after the hurricane Maria, the most total chaos persists on the island of Dominica, between roads cut, destruction and breaks in supply, extreme conditions for the inhabitants who keep despite all their calm.

The mountains of this independent English-speaking island, nicknamed “the natural island”, whose usually emerald-green flanks attract lovers of lush landscapes, are peeled and browned under the breath of Maria.

The eye of the hurricane passed on the island when it was at the strongest, in category 5, with winds at 260 km / hour, causing at least 15 deaths.

A time totally cut off from the world, Dominica resumed on Friday the maritime rotations with Guadeloupe and Martinique, French departments separated from its coasts by the Caribbean Sea.

Ⓒ AFP – Lionel CHAMOISEAU – | A neighborhood of Roseau, in Dominica, ravaged by cyclone Maria, on September 22, 2017

On the boat leaving Pointe-à-Pitre, passengers flock to the bridge to assess the damage: a roof overflowing, a hilltop collapsed under the violence of the rain …

Jean-Luc Royer came with his pruning helmet, a tarpaulin and pellets to sterilize the water to help his family who contacted him by radio.

At the commercial port of Roseau, which is the only one operating on the island, a few people wait, looking weary, to be able to leave Dominica and inquire about the situation of neighboring islands.

Ⓒ AFP – Douglas CURRAN – | Roads encumbered with clusters of electric wires, sheets and wood, on 22 September in Roseau, the capital of Dominica

The many taxis which usually hail the arrivals have disappeared: traffic is almost impossible with roads encumbered with clumps of electric wires, plates and wood, or even collapsed, and gasoline becomes scarce.

Pedestrian lines carry bags of food or water from one of the many island sources.

In the sky, helicopters of all sizes fly over the territory. On the ground, we meet Dutch soldiers, Saint Lucians, the United Nations team, Venezuelan rescuers, Martinique firemen …

There is no more water, more electricity, almost no telecom network, the stadium is a heliport and the hospital is partially destroyed. A curfew is set up from 16:00 to 08:00 in the morning.

Ⓒ AFP – Sabrina BLANCHARD – | Hurricane Maria

A team from Médecins sans Frontières came from Haiti to assess the needs: many rooms were destroyed as was the intensive care unit. Maria’s wounded, brought by soldiers, are treated in the corridors, intact.

Despite the almost total confusion, no inhabitant crossed by AFP complains: “Dominica is strong, we will rise!”, Says Christina Morancy, a resident of Newtown, a disadvantaged community near Roseau.

“The country has been completely destroyed. People are still in shock, the change in life is so sudden,” said Deputy Prime Minister John Collin McIntyre.

“90% of the buildings are damaged, we have a lot of water but it is partially polluted and we also need food because our agriculture has been completely destroyed,” he says.

“No one comes to help us-

“It’s a hundred times worse than Erika (30 dead in 2015, ed), Erika was located, there it is everywhere, everything is disorganized, reserves sent to the Red Cross have been looted, supermarkets have been looted … I am afraid that food and water will soon be lost, “says Schnyler Esprit, logistics manager at Dominica State College, a fear shared by many residents.

Ⓒ AFP – Lionel CHAMOISEAU – | A street of Roseau covered with debris, four days after the cyclone Maria, on September 22, 2017 in Dominica

At the entrance of Roseau, a large warehouse of building materials is ripped open: dozens of people use beams, bags of cement and plates to try to rebuild what can be.

Unlike the French Saint Martin, this English-speaking island of 72,000 inhabitants, independent for almost 40 years, is very poor and there are few stores to loot.

“Here, it’s everyone’s self, no one comes to help us, it’s survival,” says George Elyzee, 86, whose house was flooded but kept his roof.

“It’s as if we were in Syria,” says Casimir Augustus, president of the Dominican Association of Guadeloupe, who discovers the damage on his island.

He came to see if his aunt, who lives in Grand Bay, cut off from the world, “is still alive”. Despite the circumstances, he remains optimistic: “we must return in six months, you will see”.

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