Hurricane Jose spares Irma-ravaged islands

Frederick Owens
September 13, 2017

Macron is on a visit aimed at offering support and solidarity with struggling islanders after his government had been criticized for not doing enough to prepare and help France's Caribbean territories devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.

French President Emmanuel Macron will leave for St Martin late Monday to meet victims and confer with local officials, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said.

Some 40,000 people live on the French side of St. Martin, and about the same number on the Dutch side.

"We have only 12 bottles of water for a family of three to wash and drink", said Saint Barts resident Olivier Toussaint.

To provide some immediate supplies of fresh water, the sending two mobile desalinization plants shortly to the island to supply fresh water, he said.

UNICEF is relying on regular program money for the region but has set a target of $2.3 million it wants to raise from governments and private donors.

Many on St Martin, an island which is divided between France and The Netherlands and known for its vibrant nightlife and pristine beaches, were wondering where to go.

Upon his arrival in Guadeloupe, Macron told reporters his country has "put in place one of the largest air lifts since the Second World War", adding a return to normal life was an "absolute priority".

Amid accusations of poor preparation and slow response to Hurricane Irma, a trio of European leaders are visiting hard-hit Caribbean territories on Tuesday. "I am here to talk about reconstruction", he said.

Hurricane Jose spares Irma-ravaged islands

Although there has been criticism of the respective governments' response in France and in the Netherlands, whose territory St. Maarten saw looting and violence, it is the United Kingdom government that has come under the most fire.

The new hurricane was 125 kilometres from Saint Martin, 95 percent of which has already been ravaged by Hurricane Irma, which struck Wednesday and reached Florida yesterday.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands visited St. Maarten on Monday, and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson touched down in Barbados later Tuesday to oversee relief efforts.

The British have no military bases in the Caribbean, while the French have a 1,000-man garrison on Martinique, and the Dutch have a permanent naval base on Curaçao. Another navy ship has been deployed and will be active next week.

He said more than 500,000 British nationals were affected by Irma. "The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks", he said.

Willem-Alexander was scheduled to fly Tuesday to the nearby Dutch islands of Saba and St. Eustatius, which also were hit by Irma, but were less badly damaged than St. Martin.

Debris still clogs the streets, many homes are uninhabitable, communications are still down and tens of thousands are without food, water or power.

"There's no doubt that on any given day, there are people who are going to steal other people's stuff", said Honore.

"I've never experienced anything like this before and I've seen a lot of natural disasters in my life".

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