China Evacuates its Citizens Against the Gale in Caribbean Island of Dominic
Located in the east Caribbean Sea, the Commonwealth of Dominica is a small island country lying at the north-east of the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of only 751 square kilometers. The world has recently been struck by unpredictable weather events, and after the destructive typhoon in China and the Hurricane Irma in the US, Dominica was hit by the category-5 Hurricane Maria on 18th September. The disaster has paralyzed local transport and communications, and more than 400 employees of local Chinese companies and overseas Chinese were trapped on the island. Through various channels, the Chinese Embassy in Dominica and the Chinese embassies in neighboring countries finally contacted the trapped Chinese and commissioned the China Railway Construction Overseas Rescue Team to undertake the evacuation mission.
Maria, the Most Catastrophic Category-5 Hurricane in the Atlantic Region
In recent weeks, the Caribbean has been under a relentless onslaught. Here is the path of the hurricanes:
The category-5 Hurricane Irma, which was the strongest ever in the Atlantic region, first struck land in Antigua and Barbuda on the night of 5th September. 95% of the buildings on Barbuda Island were destroyed when the eye of hurricane passed over it. All the local residents were evacuated, leaving Barbuda a deserted island for the first time in three hundred years.
After sweeping over Barbuda, Irma raged through other Caribbean countries and regions such as Saint Martin and Puerto Rico, causing major casualties.
Misfortunes never come singly. Hurricane Maria followed on 18th September, upgraded from category 1 to 4 in the course of a single day, and reaching category-5 at night just before it impacted Dominica, with the highest wind speed recorded at 260 km per hour.
The disasters accompanying Maria were catastrophic too – coastal surges, storms, downpours, floods and mudslides. They wrecked all the housing and public facilities on the island – not even the roof of the Dominican Prime Minister’s house was spared. Water, electricity, communications, and food supplies were all cut off, and airports and costal ports were shut down as well. The whole country was left in desperate straits.
China’s Attitude: Citizens’ Safety Outweighs All
At the regular Foreign Ministry press conference on September 25, spokesperson Lu Kang told the press “As of the evening of September 22 local time, the first group of 158 Chinese citizens have been safely evacuated.”
He explained: “The Caribbean island of Dominica has just taken a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, which has paralyzed local transport and communications and caused the shutdown of the airports and a scarcity of supplies. The Chinese government has expressed its sympathy to Dominica and ordered the immediate launch of an emergency humanitarian response. We will provide emergency humanitarian assistance as soon as possible.”
Lu Kang also emphasized “The Chinese government is highly concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens in Dominica. Following the hurricane, the Foreign Ministry immediately activated an emergency response mechanism to coordinate with the Chinese Embassy in Dominica and Chinese embassies in neighboring countries, to ensure emergency assistance and the withdrawal of Chinese nationals in Dominica.” He added “I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to the assistance and support provided by relevant countries.”
In the statement Lu explained the evacuation process, saying that “Thanks to the concerted efforts of the Chinese embassies in Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, as of the evening of September 22 local time, the first group of 158 Chinese citizens, including two Taiwan compatriots and a one-month-old baby, have undergone emergency transfer to Antigua and Barbuda and been properly resettled. The transfer of other victims continues at full pace.”
Emergency Rescue: Cooperative Action of China’s Embassies in Antigua and Barbuda
After receiving information on the situation in Dominica, domestic authorities immediately contacted the Chinese embassy there by the only satellite phone, and confirmed that more than 400 overseas Chinese and employees of local Chinese companies could not be contacted and were possibly trapped and in danger. It was arranged by China’s domestic authorities that the embassy in Dominica, with the assistance of the Chinese embassy and commercial section in neighboring Antigua and Barbuda, should make contact with all the missing Chinese by all means, and arrange an emergency evacuation from Dominica.
In the afternoon of 20th September local time, 4 employees of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) reached the Chinese Embassy in Dominica after a 6-hour trek. They reported on the situation of the company’s local Chinese staff and returned with evacuation instructions.
Expert representatives from the Dominica Agricultural Technology Assistance Cooperation project team took 10 hours to trek almost half way across the island, and finally made it to the Chinese embassy after having lost contact for 81 hours. The dangers they faced along the way hardly need to be explained.
At 8 pm on September 25 local time in Antigua and Barbuda, a second group of more than 300 overseas Chinese and employees of local Chinese companies were transferred from Dominica. By that point, other than staff of the Chinese embassy in Dominica, all the trapped Chinese had been successfully evacuated.
According to data from the UN, Hurricane Maria has caused 15 fatalities. An estimated 73,500 people – almost 80% of the total population – have been affected by the disaster. None of the 53 hospitals and medical care centers in Dominica have supplies of water or electricity, and they are running out of food. There has been wholesale destruction of all crops and agriculture, including vegetables, fruit and coffee. It has not yet been possible to assess the full extent of the losses in the aftermath of the disaster.
Source: Foreign Ministry, Xinhua