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Dominica: 'Climate change is to blame'

HELPING HAND: General Antonio Guterres, centre left, and Dominican prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit meet with children

UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has visited Dominica, taking stock of the immense damage caused by the recent Hurricane Maria.

During the visit, he also paid tribute to the island’s people for their courage to rebuild in the face of extremely difficult circumstances.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, in the capital, Roseau, Guterres said:

“I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf on any tree. In every community, most of the buildings are destroyed or heavily damaged.”

He also praised the island’s leaders for their vision to not only rebuild, but to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

The category five storm hit Dominica on September 18, thrashing the country with extreme winds and rain. It left islanders without electricity and water, destroyed homes and health clinics and isolated communities on the mountainous island.

VOCAL: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The UN and its partners recently launched an appeal for US $31.1 million to reach more than 90 per cent of Dominicans – some 65,000 people – in the next three months.

During his visit, Guterres was unequivocal in his view about what caused the hurricanes. He said:

“One is to make sure the international community fully recognises that the intensity of hurricanes and multiplication of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

Guterres echoed concerns similar to those expressed during a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, where he witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and met with displaced people. Citing research by the UN World Meteorological Organisation, the Secretary-General said that natural disasters had tripled, while the economic damage caused by them has increased five-fold.

“Today, there is scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by the hurricanes in the Caribbean and by many other phenomena around the world,” he added.

In addition to seeing the destruction by air, Guterres, accompanied by the Dominican prime minister, visited Salybia in the Kalinago territory, where they met with local authorities and members of the community during a distribution of relief aid.

Skerrit, who just two weeks ago told the UN General Assembly in New York that he had come straight from “the front line of the war on climate change”, said:

“We thank you for bearing witness today, bearing witness to the future of all humanity if we do not respond to climate change. We thank you for taking the time to walk with us on this battlefield of shattered lives.”

He added:

“Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total. And so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”

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