For Bassem Eid and Craig Coffin of St. John’s, Hurricane Maria was the longest night of their lives.
The two men were on the small Caribbean island of Dominica for — coincidentally — a climate-change project funded by the International Development Bank. As the hurricane approached, nobody initially thought it would hit Dominica as hard as it did.
“Then, around mid-afternoon, it started to intensify from Category 2 to 4, and sitting right in front of where we were,” Eid told CBC’s On the Go on Wednesday.
Coffin said that even as the forecast worsened, and guests at their hotel took shelter in their rooms, no one was fully prepared for the storm’s severity.
“[The hotel] basically anticipated the next day they’d have some disruption during breakfast and then by lunchtime it’d be business as usual. Maybe some damage, but that was it, and as we all know, it didn’t turn out that way at all.”
One example: Before the storm, their rooms had ceilings. By the morning, they didn’t.
Took shelter under desks
Around 7 p.m. that day, the wind really started howling, he said, and soon the roof was leaking. An hour later, he heard some of the roof of the hotel rip off, and the rain began pouring in.
“At that time, I took shelter,” he said. “I realized it’s too late now to do anything, so I put pillows under the desk and I grabbed the bedspread, which was nice and thick, I wrapped myself under it, put the chair against the desk, put my suitcase at the foot,” he said.
“Then I grabbed my computer off my desk, put it in my knapsack, put the knapsack as my pillow … and then, after this, the whole roof blew out and the rain started to come in fast, and then the electricity also, the power was gone.”
Over in his room, Coffin was having much the same experience. He crawled under his desk, using his suitcase as a barrier, got as low as he could, and stuck his head under a chair because he was worried about the desk itself collapsing.
As the hurricane battered their hotel, said Eid, he frequently thought he might not make it out alive.
“It was the longest eight hours of my life,…