It’s been seven years since Tropical Storm Erika washed away Dominica’s hopes and dreams and destroyed a village forever
Petite Savanne is a ‘ghost town’-or more accurately, a ‘ghost village’.
Seven years after Tropical Storm Erika forced the evacuation of that southern village an estimated 20 people live there, full time-without electrical power and without running water.
Living like hermits, some refusing to evacuate, they plant vegetables, and root crops, harvest bay leaves, and make local rum.
“Houses are closed and abandoned, bush covers everywhere,” a source with knowledge of the village told the Sun. “It’s a strange, eerie place”.
Almost seven years have passed since Tropical Storm Erika on August 27, 2015, swept away Petite Savanne and much of Dominica; but its devastating effects still linger.
Erika inflicted 12.64 inches of rain on the island in just 12 hours. The ensuing floods, landslides and related disasters claimed lives, property, crops and infrastructure.
After the storm, nine disaster areas were identified: Bath Estate (Paradise Valley), Dubique, Petite Savanne, Campbell, Coulibistrie, Pichelin, Petite Soufriere, Good Hope and San Sauveur.
Damage to the Douglas Charles Airport, which suffered significant damage, crippling air access to Dominica for months. Government subsequently signed a $31.27M contract for rehabilitation of the airport, and it was reopened March 2016.
Significant developments resulting from the storm were the cancellation of the 2015 World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) and the destruction of a leading tourist destination, Jungle Bay Resort.
Residents of the communities of Petite Savanne and Dubique were evacuated and Government relocated the people of Petite Savanne to a new residential area at Bellevue Chopin.
“This storm starkly exposed our vulnerabilities,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. “It resulted in an estimated damage and loss of EC$1.3 billion and over 90.0 percent of Dominica’s Gross Domestic product. We of course know that the loss is much greater.”
In relation to housing relief, PM Skerrit reported that, of the 300 ‘Petro Casas’ donated by Venezuela, 50 houses have been completed in the Centre area in Grand bay, which has been allocated to 152 residents of Dubique.
The government said also that it acquired 49.6 acres of land at Bellevue Chopin, to resettle the 283 displaced families (823 persons) of Petite Savanne and adjacent communities.
Up to today, the ownership status of the new housing units at Bellevue Chopin, which replaced houses owned by the villagers before Erika, is still unclear.
In 2022, people from the new Petite Savanne/ Bellevue return regularly to the old and abandoned Petite Savanne to “weed their yard” plant crops, and hold “cook-ups” with family and friends.
You cannot evacuate memories.