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Rudi Kiefer: Small island of Dominica has been devastated by storms
Rudi Kiefer
As we’re reaching the middle of hurricane season, geographers are keeping an anxious eye on Dominica. It’s not related to the Dominican Republic. Dominica is a small island nation between Guadeloupe and Martinique, all part of the Lesser Antilles region in the Caribbean.

With 290 square miles of land area, it’s about one-third the size of Rhode Island. The island is blessed with natural beauty. Waterfalls and clear streams run off the volcanic peaks. Blue ocean water laps on beaches of white sand and palm trees.

Yet Dominica is hard hit by nature’s events. In 1979, one year after independence from Great Britain, hurricane David made a devastating pass over the island before moving on to the rest of the Caribbean, and the U.S. East Coast. After that fateful day of Aug. 29, 1979, the young nation found itself with 75 people killed, a broken economy, 50,000 homeless, 5,000 injured and a scale of destruction that aid organizations compared to a battlefield.

Thanks to aid from other Caribbean nations, Dominica recovered after some years, and tourists’ dollars began to support the population of currently 74,000, a number roughly equal to Albany, Georgia.

Ten years after David, Hurricane Hugo caused anxiety and significant damage on his way to Charleston, South Carolina, but its eye missed the island. Just six years later, a double blow came from hurricanes Luis and Marilyn. The vital crop in Dominica, literally a “banana republic,” was destroyed again by hurricane Dean in 2007. In 2015, 14 deaths due to tropical storm Erika were followed by economic disaster when the storm damage was equal to 90 percent of the country’s gross national product.

All of these disasters hitting the small nation were dwarfed by the impact of Hurricane Maria. On Sept. 19, 2017, Maria struck with unprecedented force. As the first Category 5 hurricane to ever hit the island, it was also the deadliest in two centuries.

Our attention was focused more closely on Puerto Rico, because that island is part of the United States. But the devastation in Dominica was equal, or worse. Current bloggers have called the island “finished, destroyed.” Its capital Roseau is in ruins from flash floods and mudslides, and the island’s power grid is destroyed.

Considering the brave struggle of this young country, Dominica deserves assistance that goes beyond Puerto Rico and our national border.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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