Last updated: September 20, 2017 at 6:51 am
The first information from Dominica is emerging, hours after the island was hammered by the full force of Hurricane Maria.
Unconfirmed reports state that at least six people have died.
One fatality is said to have occurred in Morne Prosper, and the other five in Dos Dane, a village close to Portsmouth.
Until the last 30 minutes there was no communication with anyone on the island since 4am local time.
WIC News understands 90% or more of the island’s buildings have been damaged. When contact was lost, initial reports were that 70% had been damaged.
Earlier reports stated that the majority of buildings had been destroyed but this has now been clarified.
As well as buildings, trees have been uprooted and power lines have been ripped to the ground. It is understood that landslides have blocked a number of roads across the country.
Bath Estate and Coulibistrie has seen severe flooding, but the full picture across Dominica is slowly being revealed.
Sources in Mahaut have said that homes have lost their roofs – reflecting the state across the island – but there are no confirmed casualties.
Ross University School of Medicine, located in the Portsmouth area, has not reported any casualties – although, as with the rest of the nation, contact has been broken.
WIC News has been told that a helicopter from Martinique will visit Dominica tomorrow to survey the damage. It is expected that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and disaster management experts will be on the flight.
All communication towers are down, and are expected to be out of action for some time.
Information has trickled out of the island this afternoon via ham radio operators, who are the only people in contact with each other and the outside world.
For this reason there has not yet been an official government response to the disaster.
United Caribbean response
The region is mobilising to assist Dominica, with St Lucia to act as the main point of rescue due to Dominica’s airport being rendered unusable.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago has dispatched two emergency helicopters and crews to assist the government with search and rescue.
They have also sent a medical ship with supplies and food.
Speaking this evening, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said: “The government and people of Antigua and Barbuda stand in solidarity with the government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica during this time of need.”
Dominica’s prime minister experienced the destructive power of Hurricane Maria during the night.
Skerrit posted live updates of the hurricane’s progress, writing on Facebook soon after Maria’s landfall that his home had suffered damage: “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”
After being rescued, Skerrit wrote: “My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”