Long lines for aid in bat­tered Caribbean

At least 34 peo­ple re­ported killed in the re­gion.

The Palm Beach Post - - HURRICANE IRMA - By An­drea Ro­driguez and Des­mond Boy­lan

HA­VANA — With ports mended and weather cleared, of­fi­cials strug­gled Mon­day to get aid to Caribbean is­lands dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Irma and tried to take stock of the dam­age caused by the Cat­e­gory 5 storm.

At least 34 peo­ple were re­ported to have been killed in the re­gion, in­clud­ing 10 in Cuba, whose north­ern coast was raked by the storm. Cuban state me­dia said most of those died in Ha­vana, where seawa­ter surged deep into res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods.

To the east, in the Lee­ward Is­lands known as the play­ground for the rich and fa­mous, gov­ern­ments came un­der crit­i­cism for fail­ing to re­spond quickly to the hur­ri­cane, which flat­tened many towns and turned lush, green hills to a brown stub­ble.

Res­i­dents have re­ported food, wa­ter and medicine short­ages, as well as loot­ing.

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son de­fended his gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to what he called an “un­prece­dented catas­tro­phe” and promised to in­crease fund­ing for the re­lief ef­fort. Bri­tain sent a navy ship and al­most 500 troops to the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, An­guilla and the Turks and Caicos is­lands that were pum­meled by the hur­ri­cane.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment said it was send­ing a flight Mon­day to evac­u­ate its ci­ti­zens from St. Martin, one of the hard­est-hit is­lands. Evac­uees were warned to ex­pect long lines and no run­ning wa­ter at the air­port.

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship was ex­pected to dock near St. Martin to help in the af­ter­math, and a boat was bring­ing a 5-ton crane ca­pa­ble of un­load­ing large ship­ping con­tain­ers of aid. A French military ship was sched­uled to ar­rive to­day with ma­te­ri­als for tem­po­rary housing.

About 70 per­cent of the beds at the main hos­pi­tal in the French por­tion of St. Martin were se­verely dam­aged, and more than 100 peo­ple need­ing ur­gent med­i­cal care were evac­u­ated. Eight of the ter­ri­tory’s 11 phar­ma­cies were de­stroyed, and Guade­loupe was send­ing med­i­ca­tion.

Dutch King Willem-Alexan­der flew to St. Maarten, which shares the is­land with the French de­pen­dency of St. Martin, to see the dev­as­ta­tion wreaked by Irma and ex­press grat­i­tude to re­lief work­ers. Dutch news out­lets showed the king tour­ing the badly dam­aged Princess Ju­liana In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which was named for his grand­mother.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron was sched­uled to ar­rive to­day in St. Martin to bring aid and fend off crit­i­cism that he didn’t do enough to re­spond to the storm.

The “whole gov­ern­ment is mo­bi­lized” to help, said In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ger­ard Col­lomb. Soon af­ter Irma killed 10 peo­ple on St. Martin, Cat­e­gory 4 Hur­ri­cane Jose threat­ened the area, halt­ing evac­u­a­tions for hours be­fore head­ing out to sea and caus­ing lit­tle ad­di­tional dam­age.

In the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands, res­i­dents of the cap­i­tal of Char­lotte Amalie re­ported long lines for dwin­dling sup­plies of ba­sics such as wa­ter, food and ga­so­line.

“You get noth­ing from the city. Noth­ing. No food. No wa­ter. Ev­ery­thing is closed,” said Rene Con­cep­cion, who waited for up to three hours to get wa­ter.

Com­pli­cat­ing the sit­u­a­tion is a noon-to-6 p.m. cur­few that usu­ally gives peo­ple just enough time to get only one es­sen­tial item, said Gla­dys Collins.

“That pe­riod of time is the time that we have to do what­ever we need: wa­ter, food, ga­so­line,” she said. “Ev­ery­where that you go is a long line.”

Also hit hard was Cuba, where cen­tral Ha­vana neigh­bor­hoods along the coast be­tween the Al­men­dares River and the har­bor suf­fered the worst flood­ing. Seawa­ter pen­e­trated as much as a third of a mile in­land in some places.

Cuban state me­dia re­ported 10 deaths de­spite the coun­try’s usu­ally rig­or­ous dis­as­ter prepa­ra­tions. More than 1 mil­lion were evac­u­ated from flood-prone ar­eas.

Hec­tor Pul­pito re­counted a har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at his job as night cus­to­dian of a park­ing lot that flooded five blocks from the sea in Ha­vana’s Vedado neigh­bor­hood.

“This was the worst of the storms I have been through, and the sea rose much higher,” Pul­pito said. “The trees were shak­ing. Metal roofs went fly­ing.”

Cuban state tele­vi­sion re­ported se­vere dam­age to ho­tels on the north­ern keys off Ciego de Avila and Ca­m­aguey prov­inces.

The Jar­dines del Rey air­port serv­ing the north­ern keys was de­stroyed, the Com­mu­nist Party news­pa­per Granma re­ported, tweet­ing pho­tos of a shat­tered ter­mi­nal hall lit­tered with de­bris.

DES­MOND BOY­LAN / AP

A man on Mon­day sur­veys his col­lapsed apart­ment build­ing where two peo­ple died dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Irma in Ha­vana. Cuban state me­dia re­ported 10 deaths de­spite the coun­try’s rig­or­ous dis­as­ter prepa­ra­tions.

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