Natural disasters in the Dominica Republic: past and future risks

Dominica is a very popular tourist destination. Millions of tourists come here every year to relax on the luxurious beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to admire the beautiful nature of the island. They should find out in advance what natural disasters or catastrophes they may encounter. A natural disaster always comes unexpectedly, but knowing about its potential, you can prepare for it.

Climatic features of the Dominica

Dominica occupies the easternmost part of the island of Haiti, the second-largest island in the Caribbean. The country is characterized by a humid tropical climate with a slight gradient of temperature and humidity throughout the year. High rainfall on the north coast occurs from November to January, and in the rest of the country from April to November.

The country is prone to severe tropical storms and hurricanes. They are particularly violent from June to November.

The central part of the country is covered with rather high mountains. The maximum height is 3000 metres. The mountains are mostly overgrown with forests, but there are some sheer cliffs.

There are no active volcanoes, although there are many on the neighbouring islands of the Lesser Antilles. There are often very strong eruptions there.

The island of Haiti is located in an active tectonic zone, and strong earthquakes are not uncommon here.

Potentially dangerous factors that can cause a natural disaster include:

  • Seismic activity. Can lead to strong earthquakes with destruction and casualties, which has happened many times in the past.
  • Volcanism. There are no active volcanoes in the country, but it can be subject to the effects of eruptions on neighbouring islands.
  • Seasonal hurricanes and storms. Lead to coastal destruction, torn off roofs and uprooted trees.
  • Heavy rainfall. Causes flooding in mountainous areas, on the coast and in river valleys.
  • High mountains. It can cause landslides and rockfalls that pose a threat to tourists.

The importance of studying the history of natural disasters

The history of natural disasters is important information to learn before travelling to your chosen country. Knowing the potential dangers that may be awaiting you will not only help you choose the right place, but also the time and season of the year when the threat of being at the epicentre of a natural disaster will be minimal.

For example, knowing that August-October of every year Dominican Republic is hit by strong storms, you can choose a different time for travelling to the country.

In this article, you will learn the chronology of natural disasters that have occurred in the Dominican Republic in the past.


Землетрясение в Доминикане

The island of Haiti, where the Dominican Republic is located, is located in a seismically active region. Between 1,000 and 1,200 seismic events are recorded here each year. Most of them do not pose any threat and are not even felt by humans. But several times a decade the country shakes perceptibly.

4 August 1946

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of about 8 occurred off the coast of the Samana Peninsula, in the north-east of the country. The tremors caused significant destruction on land and led to the formation of tsunami waves in the sea. A total of 2,550 people died from the disaster.

24 June 1984.

This time, the earthquake occurred off the southeastern coast of the island. Its magnitude was 6.7. The tremors were felt in the capital Santo Domingo and in La Romana. Several buildings collapsed, under their rubble rescuers found bodies of 5 people.

22 September 2003

An earthquake occurs in the north of the country, a few kilometres from the city of Santiago. Its magnitude is estimated at 6.4. The city of Puerto Plata, located almost above the epicentre, was the most affected. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, and 3 people were killed.

12 January 2010

The most destructive earthquake of the last hundred years happened in the western part of the island, on the territory of Haiti. Its magnitude was estimated at 7 points and it caused unprecedented destruction. Basically the republic of Haiti suffered, where according to different estimations from 100 to 220 thousand people were killed. But the neighbouring Dominican Republic also felt the rampage of underground elements. However, here the inhabitants got off a slight fright, the destruction was almost none, and victims were avoided.


On the territory of Dominica there are three cones of ancient volcanoes, which have not erupted for many millennia. Nevertheless, volcanologists do not discount them, because they are located in the active zone, where eruptions are very frequent.

All volcanoes of the Dominican Republic are located in the central part of the country – San Juan, Valle Nuevo and Dos Hermanos. There are also dormant volcanoes on the territory of the neighbouring republic of Haiti. All of them can pose a danger, but at the moment it is minimal.

Other volcanic eruptions in the West Indies, including the relatively recent one on the island of Montserrat in 1997, which is considered the strongest in the region, have had little impact on the Dominican Republic.


Шторм в Доминикане

Although much of the island’s coastline is surrounded by a wall of coral reef, tsunamis can pose a definite danger to the Dominican Republic. Earthquakes and violent volcanic eruptions are common in the Caribbean. Any of these cataclysms can lead to tsunamis.

Thus, a tsunami struck Dominica and its neighbouring islands after the 1946 earthquake. The wave increased the scale of destruction and the number of dead. About 20 thousand buildings were washed away, and the maximum wave height was 5 metres. It was the most powerful tsunami in the country in the last 100 years.

Storms and hurricanes

Ураган в Санто-Доминго 2017

The season of tropical hurricanes, which are accompanied by squally winds and heavy rainfall, begins in the Dominican Republic in mid-summer. The maximum storm days occur between July and October. This region is characterised by very strong hurricanes, but for the most part they bypass Dominica. Cuba, Florida and the Gulf Coast suffer much more from tropical cyclones. Therefore, the danger of hurricanes in the country is low. For the last 100 years only 5 strong hurricanes, causing significant destruction, have struck the country.

September 1979

In early September 1979, Hurricane «David» hit the Dominican Republic, which was classified as a Category 5 hurricane. It made a thorough landfall in the Lesser Antilles and then passed over the southern part of the Dominican Republic. The wind speed was 240 kilometres per hour. As a result, the city of Santo Domingo and many other settlements were flooded. The damage was estimated at 1 billion dollars, 2000 people died.

September 1998

One of the most destructive for the republic was hurricane «Georges», whose path lay exactly through the island of Haiti. The storm reached its peak on 20 September 1998, when wind speeds exceeded 195 kilometres per hour. Heavy rainfall, which lasted for more than 10 hours, led to landslides and flooding of a large area, including the capital Santo Domingo. Total damage from the hurricane was estimated at $1.2 billion, 600 people were killed.

September 2017

In September 2017, Category 5 hurricane «Irma» passed along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. It caused terrible devastation in the Lesser Antilles and southern Bahamas, killing 130 people and sweeping many buildings out to sea, but Dominica was virtually unaffected. And this is a typical example of the passage of even the most powerful hurricanes along the coast of the island.


Потоп в Доминикане

Floods in the country occur for two reasons: in the rainy season due to heavy rainfall; in the hurricane season due to heavy rains and storm surge. We wrote about hurricanes above, but now we will touch briefly on the rainy season. For the southern coast of the island and the central regions, the rainy season lasts from April to November. At this time almost every day there is a tropical downpour, very strong but short-lived. This causes flooding of streets and highways, but the floods are usually not a real threat. Here are typical examples of such floods:

In April 2012, heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow in the northern province of Puerto Plata. Several settlements were flooded and 11,000 people were evacuated. Casualties were avoided.

In April 2020, heavy rains provoked large-scale flooding in the province of Cristobal, in the south of the country. More than 600 houses were underwater, roads were washed away and transport links were disrupted. There were no casualties.

In November 2022, rainfall triggered flooding in Santo Domingo. City neighbourhoods and metro stations were flooded. Electricity was cut off throughout the city. Six people died.


Наводнение в Доминикане 2022

Landslides in the Dominican Republic occur quite regularly. Their formation provokes heavy rains and hurricanes. But they mainly affect the central, mountainous regions of the country. For tourist centres located on the coast, landslides are not dangerous. Catastrophic landslides have not been recorded in the history of the country.

Forest fires

Dominican Republic is not characterised by forest fires, as the country is located in a climatic zone characterised by a high degree of moisture. Tropical rains are a constant phenomenon here, and they do not allow forests to dry out to such an extent that spontaneous fires occur.

But the republic is not immune to human impact on nature. Thus, one of the worst fires in the country occurred in March 2019, and its cause was called deliberate arson. At that time, mangroves near Bavaro Lagoon, a popular tourist spot, were burning. Firefighters were unable to tackle the blaze for a long time due to the huge rhizomes preventing them from getting close to the fire. It took 3 days to fight the fire.


Earthquakes pose the greatest threat to tourists in the Dominican Republic, but fortunately such disasters are relatively rare. Nevertheless, their probability should be taken into account when planning a holiday in this country.

The danger of tropical hurricanes for the Dominican Republic is insignificant. As a rule, the strongest storms safely pass by the island, and those that reach its shores are extremely rare.

The threats of tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are also insignificant for the country.

Floods caused by tropical rainstorms are more dangerous. Floods are most common in April-May and early autumn.

Forest fires do not pose a danger to the flora of the Dominican Republic.

The best time to visit the country is winter, from December to March. At this time of year it is relatively dry and there are almost no strong storms. And air and water temperatures in the Dominican Republic remain at the same level all year round.

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