With a population of over 70,000, the small island of Dominica was devastated when Hurricane Maria made a direct hit.
“Dominica looks like it was hit by a bomb and hosed off…it’s horrible," said Nikki Couture, a Tampa resident who owns a home and bar in Dominica.
“I can recognize my place on google maps instantly and I just want to know if I have a roof," she said.
Couture already lost one home in Dominica when a storm blew it off a cliff. Now, her worries are matched by the loved ones of the nearly 1,400 students and faculty of Ross Medical School. Evacuations began on Thursday afternoon.
“We haven’t heard from our son since Monday at 8 o’clock," said Adam Olivares. His son Adam and his girlfrined Bobbie are two Ross students waiting to evacuate.
“Our concern now is the evacuation process," said Adam's wife Lisa. "It seems like we’re hitting a brick wall because the school is having to do this on their own and the US isn’t coming in to assist.”
Ross Medical posted on its Facebook page that after speaking with the U.S. State Department, the school decided its independent evacuation plan was the best course. The school will use local vessels to transport students to nearby St. Lucia. Once there, students will be offered a nights' shelter then flights to the mainland.
Couture hopes this spotlight on the small island will inspire others to help. Her contacts on the island tell her people need tarps to shelter from rain and non-perishable food items. Some also need phone minutes to contact loved ones.
A local group is planning a donation drive for Saturday, September 23.
To contact the Dominica Association of Tampa Bay, click here.