The captain of a Canadian warship delivering aid to the hurricane-battered island of Dominica describes “near total devastation” after visiting the capital Roseau and surveying the storm damage from a Sea King helicopter.

Commander Gord Noseworthy said HMCS St. John’s arrived in the waters off the Caribbean island on Sunday, just over a week after Hurricane Maria slammed the region as a Category 5 storm. The Halifax-class frigate is currently stationed off the north-east coast where it is focusing its humanitarian efforts on the village of Marigot, home to about 2,600 residents.

The death toll on Dominica has risen to 27, with as many residents missing, Chief of Police Daniel Carbon stated on Monday.

“Essentially, the entire rainforest is gone,” Noseworthy told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “A lot of mud, sand and silt that was on the higher elevation of the mountain ranges has unfortunately been sent through the streets and into the lower outlying communities and villages on the coastline.”

Some of the 230-member crew aboard the HMCS St. John’s is deployed on the ground with chainsaws to remove trees and other debris snarling roads and slowing delivery of desperately needed supplies.

Much of the island’s water supply is said to be contaminated by floodwater. The ship is equipped with two reverse osmosis desalination systems, which can produce more than 15,000 litres of fresh water a day. The water is loaded into large bladders that can hold up to 1,000 litres and be airlifted to shore.

Noseworthy said the ship is currently two or three miles from Dominica’s coastline, rendering aid from the sea. He said, fortunately, the local airport is operational and accepting deliveries as well.

“There are some challenges, but I can tell you it is getting better by the day,” Noseworthy said.

He said it's unclear how long the warship will be assisting Dominica, noting that there is still much to do on the ground. That work is being hampered by sweltering humidity that causes the heat to feel as strong as 40 degrees Celsius.

Noseworthy added that the locals have been highly receptive to Canada’s aid efforts in the region, and their mood appears to be improving.

“My sense is that they are quite relieved and happy to see that there are a lot of assets being placed on the island right now,” Noseworthy said.

The crew has also located several Canadian citizens, who have been repatriated aboard a Hercules military aircraft. Global Affairs says there has been significant damage to buildings and other critical infrastructure, and continues to advise against any travel to the island.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press