By Nelson Groom
An Australian grandad-of-four who got caught in Hurricane Maria has shared photos of the absolute carnage left behind after surviving the category-five storm which tore the roof off from over his head.
David Sargent was due to leave Dominica in the Caribbean last month when the worst storm in the island’s history barreled in, killing 15 people and sparking flash floods.
The 70-year-old was seeking shelter on the top floor of a house when the 290km/hr winds blew the roof off – and David was forced to flee to escape being swept off with it.
After being battered by high speed winds and rain, the island was left without electricity as all the power lines were buried under mounds of rubble where homes and shops once stood.
And the complete power outage left dad-of-two David with no way of letting his wife Marieke Sargent in Brisbane know he had survived the devastating storm.
Civil engineer David, who has since been welcomed home, said: “When it came around it got dark outside the wind started howling then the power went off.
“We were keeping the windows closed so the air pressure couldn’t get inside. It all happened so quickly.
“We thought it was just a tropical storm then it suddenly intensified.
“I could hear the roof start creaking, but the sound seemed structurally sound.
“But then it started caving in and I thought, ‘This is getting serious, I could get sucked away here’.
“The government was advising people who didn’t feel safe to seek out these public shelters, but some of these ended up getting pretty damaged.”
The storm left a trail of havoc in its wake with pummeling winds, heavy rain and floods that destroyed hundreds of homes and severed communication systems.
Meanwhile David’s wife Marieke, 42, was left fearing for the worst after four long nights without knowing what had happened to her husband.
Marieke said: “My world was breaking down. It was one of the most uncertain times I have every experienced. I felt so helpless.
“We always keep daily contact, so not hearing anything from him was concerning.
“But it wasn’t until I saw the news of the utter devastation the island had suffered I became very worried.
“Knowing that David was somewhere down there, quite possibly hurt, it made me frantic.”
The moment she made contact with David four days later was one Marieke said she would ‘never forget’.
Marieke said: “My relief at hearing his voice, his familiar voice. I cried and cried and he told me he was ok, he made it to a hotel in Antigua.
“When he touched down to days later, we were full of excitement and happiness. Even our day was running backwards with relief.”
Dominica faces a long road to recovery with officials estimating it could take several years and billions of dollars to rebuild what has been lost.
David, who ironically was working on the island’s disaster protection following major damage from another storm in 2015, admitted the island nation has a long journey ahead.
David said: “When I emerged it almost looked like a winter landscape.
“The trees were stripped of all leaves, people were just in shock, then came the looting.
“I’m not sure how they can recover from this. It will take months just to get the essential services working again.”