France, Netherlands boost aid in Caribbean after criticism

13 Sep 2017

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SBS World News Radio: France, Britain and the Netherlands are boosting their aid and security efforts after criticism they're not doing enough for their territories in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma.

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Irma killed at least 38 people across the whole of the Caribbean and devastated basic services.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 17,000 need emergency shelter in the region.

Residents and tourists on islands that bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma say help has been slow to arrive.

Many have been stranded with little food, shelter or drinking water.

Law and order has also been under threat with looting erupting.

French President Emmanuel Macron has paid a visit to some of the affected French territories, promising a large-scale rebuilding effort in the devastated islands.

He was accompanied by his health and education ministers, and officials overseeing the aid mobilisation on Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

Speaking during his visit to Guadeloupe, Mr Macron moved to reassure the public.

"For those who live on the island there is anger because people are tired. I understand this anger and I am also going to St Martin because of this to reassure people, to show them full determination to console and also to listen to their anger because it is there, it is normal and it is my role also to accept this."

Mr Macron also says he'll support a parliamentary inquiry, following criticism from political opponents who say the government didn't properly anticipate the disaster.

French authorities are continuing to evacuate the most vulnerable residents from Saint Martin.

Rescuers struggled to ferry people to nearby Guadeloupe, where infrastructure was spared by the storm.

This military policeman is helping to coordinate evacuations.

"The problem that we have is that we have two planes: one with a capacity of 35, the other 72, so we can evacuate about 100 people with every journey. There are four planes so we can evacuate 100 people every two hours. The evacuations began from the day after the storm and today from 7am we already had 100 people with lots of babies, injured people."

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has also visited the Dutch-ruled part of Saint Martin, as the military were continuing to deliver water, food, and hygiene supplies to the population.

The Dutch Red Cross says nearly a third of all buildings on the island were destroyed and more than 90 per cent were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

The aid agency had surveyed 5,500 structures before the storm and made the assessment based on photographs provided by the Defence Ministry in the Netherlands.

The Dutch King, Willem-Alexander, says he was shocked by what he saw.

"From the moment we could see the island from the aircraft I thought, I've never seen this before. I've seen a lot of devastation caused by forces of nature or by war but this I've never seen. Everywhere you look you see destruction and desperation. At the same time you also see people who are working hard cleaning up. We say we stand together, shoulder to shoulder and we will rebuild this island. There's hope for the future. That's good to see."

Britain has delivered its first humanitarian aid and disaster relief to its territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The British Royal Air Force says it has flown more than 20 sorties within the Caribbean since Friday, moving more than 700 passengers into and around the region and delivering more than 70 tonnes of freight to hurricane-stricken communities.

 

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