Euro­pean lead­ers take food, wa­ter, sup­plies to dev­as­tated is­land

The Palm Beach Post - - HURRICANE IRMA - By Dan­ica Coto, Ni­co­las Garriga and Sylvie Corbet

PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN — France’s pres­i­dent and the Dutch king vis­ited Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries on Tues­day that were ham­mered by Hur­ri­cane Irma, bring­ing in much-needed food, wa­ter and med­i­cal sup­plies amid ac­cu­sa­tions that Euro­pean gov­ern­ments had been un­pre­pared, slow to re­act and some­times even racist in their re­sponses to the dev­as­ta­tion.

The visit came as res­i­dents tried to re­vive a sense of nor­malcy amid the chaos and de­struc­tion wrought by the Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane with small ges­tures like shar­ing ra­dios and res­cu­ing dogs.

The Dutch Red Cross said more than 200 peo­ple were still listed as miss­ing on St. Maarten, but with com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­tremely spotty a week af­ter the storm hit it wasn’t clear how many were sim­ply with­out cell ser­vice and power and un­able to let friends and fam­ily know they had sur­vived. The or­ga­ni­za­tion said 90 per­cent of build­ings on the Dutch ter­ri­tory were dam­aged and a third de­stroyed as Irma roared across the is­land it shares with French St. Martin.

Yo­gesh Bodha, a 37-yearold jew­elry store em­ployee, said there was no re­sponse from Euro­pean of­fi­cials for two days, and that he hasn’t seen many changes since Dutch author­i­ties ar­rived on St. Maarten.

“They should’ve been more or­ga­nized than they were,” he said. “We have not re­ceived any food or wa­ter. They say it’s on its way. Let’s see.”

For Liseth Echevar­ría, who works as a bar­tender in St. Maarten, of­fer­ing what­ever she could to fam­ily, strangers and aban­doned pets was help­ing her cope — and those around her were do­ing the same.

The man­ager of a marina next door threw over a hose so that Echevar­ría and her hus­band could have a sem­blance of an out­door shower. He also of­fered them a tem­po­rary power con­nec­tion from his gen­er­a­tor so they could charge phones and lis­ten to the sole ra­dio sta­tion still broad­cast­ing.

“This is the only com­mu­ni­ca­tion that St. Maarten has with the world right now,” the 27-year-old said.

It was thanks to that ra­dio sta­tion that she found out about a flight for all Latin Amer­i­cans stuck in St. Maarten. She rushed to the air­port with her brother, who was evac­u­at­ing back to Colom­bia. As she dropped him off, Echevar­ría saw a York­shire ter­rier tied to a me­tal bar­ri­cade, aban­doned by a pas­sen­ger flee­ing the is­land and told they couldn’t bring pets on the plane.


De­bris and wreck­age lit­ter the streets of Saint Martin on Sun­day af­ter the pass­ing of Hur­ri­cane Irma. Some res­i­dents com­plained Euro­pean gov­ern­ments were un­pre­pared and slow to re­act to the storm.

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