Until the night of September 18, 2017, Dominica’s Tourism Minister Robert Tonge had been expecting a Category 1 or 2 hurricane — bad, but nothing the island hadn’t dealt with before. “Maria” probably wouldn’t be a name remembered. Then, at 8 p.m., a message came from a friend: “Bunker down. It’s going to be a Category 5.” For the next seven hours, Hurricane Maria’s 160-mile per hour winds undressed Dominica, stripping the lush vegetation on the “Nature Island.” Tonge and his family huddled in a first-floor room battened with hurricane shutters to ride out Maria’s last-minute power surge. When the storm subsided, Tonge surveyed the damage in Roseau. Cars were flipped, trees were toppled and leafless, and sand blanketed the scene. About 90 percent of the island’s buildings were damaged and 31 people were killed, he later learned. Thirty-seven are still missing. “I said to myself, ‘Oh my God. How am I going to deal with this?’ “ Tonge recalled. In Dominica, like in other islands in the Caribbean where Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September, the storms proved disastrous not just for homes and businesses, but for the vital tourism economy as well. On most of the islands… Read full this story
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