The small Caribbean island of Dominica is making progress toward recovery after a devastating blow from last year's Hurricane Maria, the country's prime minister said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the country has exported the first crops harvested since Maria roared across Dominica as a fierce Category 5 on Sept. 18 and that tourism is recovering with the return of cruise ships and the re-opening of hotels on the mountainous island in the eastern Caribbean.
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He also said water has now been fully restored to all communities in Dominica and that many homes are being rebuilt. The country has received about $400 million in assistance from the World Bank, the European Union and other international institutions.
Skerrit said the island needs about $1 billion to rebuild and prepare for future storms.
"We are much better than yesterday," the prime minister said in an interview on the sidelines of a disaster-recovery workshop in Miami organized by the Clinton Foundation. "We have a long way to go because we are going to build back better and that takes time."
Hurricane Maria struck Dominica with sustained winds of about 160 mph, killing at least 31 people and damaging 90 percent of homes on the island of about 74,000 people. Skeritt, who had to flee his own home when it was damaged in the storm, said about 5,000 houses need to be rebuilt still and 20,000 require repairs.
He was meeting in Miami with former President Bill Clinton and officials and business leaders to discuss new approaches to disaster management and reconstruction amid more intense storms expected as a result of climate change.