Hurricane-ravaged Dominica is still fighting to survive

The tiny Caribbean island on the front line of climate change lost entire communities, forests and infrastructures during Hurricane Maria.
8:19 | 10/19/17

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Transcript for Hurricane-ravaged Dominica is still fighting to survive
??? what a friend we have in Jesus ??? Everything is in shambles, yeah? This used to be what we called our living room. My son's bedroom. We tried to salvage some of his school books. ??? Everything to god in prayer ??? This is the remains of it. It's been there for 20 years. Everything here is all gone. It's all gone. Reporter: They say the small island of Dominica was the most stunning in all of the caribbean. But on this night, one month ago, this world was turned upside down. Without warning, hurricane winds suddenly accelerated from category 3 to 5. There was lightning, heavy rain, the hurricane was in the house. It was just whistling, whistling. Reporter: This mostly Christian nation now at the mercy of a storm that shared a name with the mother of Christ. Hurricane MARIA. In a matter of hours, we lost everything that money can buy. Reporter: Six days later, the only way to reach the interior is with the U.S. Military. It's the most overused phrase to say something looks like a war zone. I have to say, I've seen many, and that island has been completely devastated. Many nations suffered this hurricane season. But the one with the highest death toll per capita is domini Dominica. There's a forest that hasn't been flattened and the people have literally been left with nothing. They're really at the mercy of the elements. This island of 74,000 people is on the front line of climate change. One ferocious storm following another. Now its very survival may be at risk. When we arrived, the winds have eased, the sun reappeared. But such is the force and scale of what's happened here that those who can get out do. Tomorrow you're going to be flying. Reporter: The students at the university medical school and American college based here are lucky. They can leave. I think we're just all glad to finally get off the island, you know? Let get out of here! Any sense of a little bit of sadness? I do feel sadness for the people of Dominica. It's hard to see a place you love go through that kind of a storm. Bye, guys! Reporter: For some islanders too, the prospect of escape. But sometimes with the agony of having to say good-bye to each other. Is it planned you're going to stay behind? I'm going to stay. They are going, I'm going to stay and rebuild the country. Start doing whatever I have to do to make Dominica good again. You think it's not safe for your wife and baby to stay? Right now I don't think it is pretty safe for him. Reporter: No one on this island has access to running, drinkable water. With sewage systems destroyed, fears for diseases like diarrhea and dysentery are widespread. Must be hard in your hearts, though, to let him go, right? He's beautiful. It is hard to let him go. But as a father, you just have to do what you have to do. Reporter: A father sacrificing prayers for a swift reunion. When that will happen is unknown. But the vast majority here don't have an escape route. There is no plan B. Just a few miles from Ross university, but a world apart. The smell of smoke is thick in the air. Some from buildings on fire, some from people making fire because that's their only source of any power to try and cook anything. Most of the island is still without power, without any means of communication to the rest of the world. Here we meet Robert Benjamin I. He's had no way to send word to his son in London. I've got to hit zero, haven't I? Reporter: We let him use our satellite phone. Adam? Son, it's dad. Reporter: Robert tells him they're alive but the situation is bad. Hey, son. Granny's house is all right. The village is really bad, yeah. It's really bad. There's half the village is gone. Adam? Hello? He's gone. Well, at least he's heard my voice. Thank god for that. Adam? Suddenly feels a long way from home, right? Yeah. Yeah. But -- I mean, we'll get back on our feet, I'm sure we will. You know? Reporter: At age 83, Robert's mom has seen many a storm before. This is one of the worst we ever see. Reporter: She's sensitive to the consensus climate change is making storms more ferocious. She's beseeching god to spare her family. I pray, asking god to protect me, protect my son, and protect the house. Reporter: What happened here was little short of a miracle. The family spared. The roof stayed on. But the floodwaters, the mud and debris, still came. I put some boards here, on this plank, that's all mud. There you go. Yeah. But we have our life. And we can at least house people down here once it's cleared. You know? Like I said, there's a lot of homeless. Reporter: Despite a few rooms habitable, Robert and his mom have opened their home to three other families. If it wasn't for Mrs. Benjamin and his son, we would not have known what would have happened to us. Reporter: 50,000 people now displaced. More than 85% of houses here have been damaged. Of those, more than one-quarter don't exist anymore. All of the island's agriculture was wiped out. Tourism, a driving force in its economy, will be scarce. Dominica's future now in question. Not even the country's leader was spared. We're just coming in to see the prime minister of Dominica. His roof was taken out, his house was flooded, so he knows exactly what it is the people have to face. I still see the shock, the trauma in the eyes and the expressions of people. Their entire life savings been blown away. Reporter: Five days after the storm, Roosevelt scaritt appealed to the united nations. As Dominicans bear the brunt of climate change, we're shouldering the consequences of the actions of others. Actions that endanger our very existence. And all for the enrichment of a few elsewhere. You used this phrase that Dominica was on the front line in the war against global warming. That's a fact. I mean, we live in it. Reporter: The ceaseless clatter of the hammer is now the I say, how are we going to build up again? That's what we don't know. We're trying to keep our spirits high. Because if we breakdown, we break down. Reporter: Some will try to cope with climate change. Some will try to adapt. ??? What a privilege to carry ??? Reporter: If the world fails to act, it could mean one more paradise lost. For "Nightline," I'm Ian panel on Dominica. ??? ??? Our thanks to Ian for his extraordinary. Thing tonight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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