Euro­pean lead­ers take in dam­age

Vis­its come amid ire over the re­sponse by their gov­ern­ments in Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - As­so­ci­ated press

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guade­loupe — France’s pres­i­dent, Bri­tain’s for­eign sec­re­tary and the Dutch king paid a visit Tues­day to Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries that were ham­mered by Hur­ri­cane Irma, try­ing to quell ac­cu­sa­tions by res­i­dents that Euro­pean gov­ern­ments were slow to pre­pare, slow to re­act and some­times even racist in their re­sponses to the dev­as­ta­tion.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s plane brought wa­ter, food and tons of medicine and emer­gency equip­ment. His first stop was Guade­loupe, an over­seas depart­ment of France, where he landed Tues­day morn­ing.

Macron later met with res­i­dents of the FrenchDutch is­land of St. Martin, where 10 peo­ple were killed on the French side and four on the Dutch. He was to fin­ish his trip on the nearby is­land of St. Barts.

Macron is be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by doc­tors and ex­perts who will be in charge of eval­u­at­ing the dam­age.

About 1,500 French troops, po­lice and emer­gency work­ers al­ready are on the ground to help is­lan­ders, and 500 oth­ers were ex­pected to ar­rive in the com­ing days, ac­cord­ing to French author­i­ties.

But res­i­dents on the is­land have spo­ken of hunger, home­less­ness, a lack of wa­ter and a feel­ing of aban­don­ment af­ter the hur­ri­cane pum­meled the re­gion Wed­nes­day. Some com­plained that the French govern­ment spent more ef­forts res­cu­ing white tourists than black or mixed-race is­lan­ders.

Irma left en­tire is­lands and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple in the Caribbean with­out wa­ter or elec­tric­ity and re­duced many homes to splin­ters. The French, Bri­tish and Dutch gov­ern­ments sent war­ships, planes and se­cu­rity forces to keep or­der and de­liver aid, but some of that was slowed fur­ther by Hur­ri­cane Jose, which passed north of the re­gion over the week­end.

A med­i­cal cen­ter was be­ing set up Tues­day in the sta­dium of Marigot, a port on St. Martin, and a French mil­i­tary ship will pro­vide ad­di­tional med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in com­ing days, French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said.

He told re­porters that air and sea con­nec­tions with the French Caribbean is­lands should grad­u­ally re­turn to nor­mal by the end of the week, al­low­ing up to 2,500 peo­ple a day to leave the is­land.

Dutch King Willem-Alexan­der ar­rived in St. Martin on Mon­day and said the scenes of dev­as­ta­tion are the worst he has seen. The is­land is shared be­tween a French ter­ri­tory and the for­mer Dutch colony of St. Maarten, a largely au­ton­o­mous part of the Dutch king­dom with a pop­u­la­tion of about 40,000.

“I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like this be­fore, and I’ve seen a lot of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in my life. I’ve seen a lot of war zones in my life. But I’ve never seen any­thing like this,” Willem-Alexan­der said on the Dutch na­tional net­work NOS.

The king said he was en­cour­aged to see res­i­dents al­ready work­ing to­gether to re­build the shat­tered cap­i­tal, Philipsburg.

“It’s been very use­ful to see for my­self what ter­ri­ble dam­age this storm has done and in this way to also show the pop­u­la­tion of St. Martin and the gover­nor and prime min­is­ter that we stand to­gether here as a king­dom and that we will solve this to­gether,” he told re­porters on the is­land.

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

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son will be vis­it­ing the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and An­guilla to see the re­lief ef­fort first­hand.

On Mon­day, John­son de­fended the govern­ment’s re­sponse amid claims it was slow to help the Bri­tish over­seas ter­ri­to­ries, say­ing there had been an “un­prece­dented” ef­fort to deal with the af­ter­math of the storm.

At least five peo­ple died in the Bri­tish ter­ri­to­ries.

Dutch For­eign Min­is­ter Bert Koen­ders said he thinks the Euro­pean Union should send re­lief funds to both sides of St. Martin, de­spite their dif­fer­ing re­la­tion­ships with their for­mer colo­nial pow­ers.

“We be­lieve, in any case, that ev­ery­body should ben­e­fit from that money,” he told re­porters af­ter a Cab­i­net meet­ing was called to dis­cuss the fall­out from Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Koen­ders said he also would ap­peal for help from the United Na­tions.

Martin Bu­reau AFP/Getty Images

FRENCH troops pa­trol in Marigot, St. Martin. Hur­ri­cane Irma claimed 14 lives on the is­land, which France shares with the Nether­lands.

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