St Maarten was ‘hell’
Bajans should count lucky stars, say Irma survivors
HELL ON EARTH.
That is how another Barbadian has described St Maarten in the wake of the passage of super hurricane Irma last week.
“It’s the worst thing ever. I would never want Bajans to go through it,” said Malissa Koeiman who, along with teachers Brian Cole and Charlene Bovell, were airlifted out of the Dutch side of the island by Barbados Defence Force (BDF) soldiers yesterday.
All three are urging Barbadians to take hurricanes seriously.
“We should be thankful for everything we do here, every hurricane that passes us, because the winds were like 180 miles per hour. It was very, very frightening for me because I had to keep the partition that I was staying in up with a chair so it wouldn’t come down on me,” Koeiman, a beauty therapist at a Dutch hotel, recalled.
Cole was just grateful to have come through Irma alive.
The apartment in which he was living was destroyed but he managed to find other accommodation elsewhere, thanks to his landlord.
“You know you hear about hurricanes. Barbados has never been devastated like that,” Cole said.
He told the MIDWEEK NATION his mother had lost her home here during Tropical Storm Tomas in October 2010 but that storm could not compare with Irma.
“It was a powerful hurricane. I think if I were to say anything to Barbadians, it would be we are blessed by our location, by the fact that so many hurricanes turn and pass us. That was a full hit with a Category 5-plus.”
Cole said Irma brought the two sides of human nature to the fore: the kindness shown by total strangers and the ugliness of looting and crime.
“St Maarten is a beautiful place; it’s unfortunate that it’s been devastated so much. It’s gonna be a long time before they recover,” he noted. “But I hope they recover. I know they will. It will take them some time but . . . .”
He was, however, effusive in his praise for the BDF soldiers, calling them “awesome”. They canvassed the airport, at one point walking with a Barbadian flag to make sure they left no Barbadian behind, he said.
One such soldier was Lieutenant Ramone Blackman, who said local soldiers collaborated with “our brothers and sisters in arms. We would have put together a relief process that would have get our citizens back home safely”.
However, Cole said that two teachers who had been in St Maarten for more than 20 years opted to stay.
Meanwhile, teacher Charlene Bovell said her defence mechanism during Irma was to sleep through it.
“Barbados real lucky and we take things for granted. Like right now they fighting for food. They are fighting for food and we just . . . we just . . . ,” she said.
It was the looting and the burglaries which scared her in the wake of the storm.
“Where I was staying, I didn’t know the destruction was so bad. It was only after we left and went two blocks down I realised it was awful,” she said.