St Maarten was ‘hell’

Ba­jans should count lucky stars, say Irma sur­vivors

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - News - By HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON

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.

BAR­BA­DI­ANS Brian Cole and Char­lene Bovell, who were air­lifted out by Bar­ba­dos De­fence Force sol­diers, were happy to be back home yes­ter­day. In­set, Lieu­tenant Ra­mone Black­man. (Pic­tures by Reco Moore.)

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