The following University of Portsmouth disaster management expert is available to comment on the island of Dominica, which was devastated this week by Hurricane Maria.

Dr Carmen Solana Senior Lecturer, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth Tel: 07876 614 870 Email: [email protected] Bio:

Dr Carmen Solana spent three months in Dominica earlier this year and has led a number of student expeditions to the island. Here she presents an update on the situation following contact with the Dominica Red Cross.

“On Monday evening, category five Hurricane Maria slammed directly into Dominica with sustained winds of 160 mph and gusts of up to 200 mph. The resulting damage was catastrophic - estimated as 9 in a scale of 1-10 - all utilities are down, roads are impassable and many communities are isolated, especially the ones in the mountains.

“A report from the Dominica Red Cross director, Mrs Kathleen Pinard-Byrne, on Thursday says at least 40 people are confirmed dead and a curfew is in place from 4pm to 8 am due to looting. Many more deaths are feared once contact with the mountain communities is possible.

“The island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), is one of the poorest and less known islands in the Caribbean. Only two years ago, the infrastructure of the island was heavily damaged by tropical Storm Erika, and it was just starting to recover when Maria struck.  

“Dominica is more vulnerable than many of the other islands that have been affected by hurricanes in the last 10 days because of its mountainous, rugged geography - which means challenging access even before Maria's devastation. Four days into the disaster and images of the wreckage are only now starting to emerge, trickling from residents in the rare moments when some telephone signal is managed.

“The fate of some mountain villages is still unknown. Wayne Abraham, the only ham radio operator still active in the island, reports extensive damage.”