A United Nations disaster assessment official visiting Dominica, which was battered by Hurricane Maria, said on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 that an estimated 60,000 to 65,000 people, or 80 percent of the total population, have been affected and that food and water are the most immediate needs.
“There is a big, big urgency to get water and food,” said Sergio Da Silva, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team leader, speaking to reporters in New York by phone from the ground.
He said inaccessibility to remote areas has made it difficult to ascertain just how many people have been affected by the passage of the hurricane.
“And when you fly over, you see all the trees are down, debris everywhere and people are homeless,” Da Silva said.
Created in 1993, the United Nations said UNDAC is designed to help the United Nations and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica, of 72,000 people, on the evening of Sept. 18, with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour.
Da Silva said he has been in Dominica since Thursday, assisting in the coordination of incoming international relief.
Along with food and shelter, getting clean water is a priority, he said, as water in the river is not consumable. Work is also under way to restore hospitals, he added.
Da Silva said delivering humanitarian aid to remote villages remains a “huge challenge” as many roads were destroyed.