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article imageFive things to know about hurricane-hit Dominica

By AFP     Sep 19, 2017 in World

The Caribbean island of Dominica, battered by Hurricane Maria Tuesday, was also struck by severe storms in 2015 and 1979.

Here are some things know about the small nation.

- "The Nature Island" -

Not to be confused with the much larger Dominican Republic to the northwest, this island of around 750 square kilometres (290 square miles) is situated between Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Marketed as The Nature Island, it is covered in tropical rainforest and has many rivers, lakes and hot springs.

Its Morne Trois Pitons National Park, centred on the 1,342-metre (4,402-feet) volcano of the same name, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is home to about 73,000 (World Bank, 2016) who speak English and some Creole.

- Refuge of native Caribs -

The population includes 3,500 indigenous Caribs, descended from the first inhabitants of the country. This is the largest remaining Carib community in the region.

Dominica's mountainous terrain helped the Caribs, also called Kalinagos, to resist various colonial invaders.

In 1903 the British government ceded the community an area of 15 square kilometres in the northeast, called the Carib Reserve, where a chief is elected every five years.

- On a storm path -

The island is situated in an area prone to late summer storms. It was ravaged by Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015, with 31 people killed and dozens missing in flooding and landslides.

Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria
Sophie RAMIS, AFP

Category 5 Hurricane David hit in 1979, killing 56 people and leaving 75 percent of the population without shelter.

- Independent since 1978 -

A former British colony that was once also a French territory, Dominica has been independent since 1978 and is today a parliamentary republic.

Officially titled the Commonwealth of Dominica, its capital is Roseau. Roosevelt Skerrit, 44, has been prime minister since 2004.

- Tourism and bananas -

The country's economy was hit by the global recession and damage from Erika but managed growth of 2.8 percent in 2016, according to government figures.

Tourism is the main income generator, although it is less active than in other Caribbean islands, and it is developing ecotourism.

Banana cultivation has also been important to the economy although production has been dropping, hit by storm damage and disease.

Dominica is also a developing an offshore financial services sector with 12,800 groups registered locally.

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