(PRESS RELEASE) – Venezuela was among the first responders after Hurricane Maria left the island of Dominica devastated in its wake.
On September 20, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela deployed a Cougar helicopter and a Y8 model military cargo plane, carrying 18 tons of relief supplies and personnel, to assist Dominica in its recovery efforts. However, persisting adverse weather conditions in addition to the inaccessibility of both airports and roads made it impossible for the military aircrafts to land in Dominica.
The Hewanorra International Airport in Saint Lucia became the operational base for ferrying the relief supplies to Dominica. This humanitarian airlift has produced significant results and many people on the ravaged island have benefited.
Medics, paramedics, rescuers and other Venezuelan disaster-specialists were later safely transported from Saint Lucia to Dominica via the Cougar helicopter and ferry boats. More than 20 of these individuals travelled to Dominica on the ferry boats.
The Government of Saint Lucia along with the OECS Commission have also joined the recovery efforts by providing great support in terms of the logistics for storing and handling the relief supplies and assuming the cost of fuel for the several flights made to Dominica, respectively.
In the process, three Brazilian nationals – including two diplomats – and two Taiwanese were rescued and transferred to Saint Lucia via helicopter. Grenada‘s Ambassador to the OECS, H.E. Patrick Antoine, and a Dominican national whose father lost his life in the Hurricane were also transported to Dominica along with medicine and supplies.
The first reports indicated widespread devastation, and several countries joined efforts in the search and rescue missions. Venezuelans and Trinidadians worked together to rescue families who were isolated for more than six days, one such family with two small children had to live in a vehicle after the hurricane.
On Saturday September 23, another Venezuelan military cargo plane departed Venezuela with more supplies stopping over in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to collect additional humanitarian aid, then to Dominica to off-load the relief supplies. The plane then flew to Saint Lucia and landed at the Hewanorra Airport where the following day it was loaded to maximum capacity with more water, food, mattresses and blankets.
A Canadian NGO joined efforts with the Venezuelan team and sent two volunteers along with a cargo of water purification tablets, hygiene and medicine kits for distribution in Dominica. They left for Dominica last Sunday along with 5 remaining Venezuelan paramedic fire-fighters, equipped with motorcycles.
The military helicopter has performed several missions within Dominica, including transporting 137 civilians and more than 16 tons of food, water and medicine to isolated areas; search and rescue of persons with medical problems to safe zones, and evacuations out of the island.