Website allows Hurricane Irma survivors to mark themselves "safe"
The Red Cross activate its "I'm safe and well" website for the islands of Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba in preparation for Hurricane Irma, which is set to hit the Dutch islands during the course of the morning. On the site, residents and visitors to the islands can report themselves safe, RTL Nieuws reports.
The aid organization activates the website in emergency situations. This is the first time it is activated in connection with a disaster on the Antilles. People can search the site for their loved ones' message and know that they are alright. In this way the Red Cross hopes to prevent panic and anxiety.
On the islands, people are frantically preparing for the hurricane to hit. Windows and doors were nailed shut. Gardens were cleared of loose items. Schools, newspapers and government departments are closed. And people are stocking up on water, food and batteries - if they can still find them.
On Saba bottles water and batteries are sold out, teacher Femke Neunzig told De Limburger. She's been stocking her hurricane kit for days and has enough supplies to survive a week. All windows of her wooden house are boarded up, but she is wondering whether she should stay. Irma is a scale 5 hurricane, with wind speeds of around 295 kilometers per hour. Whether her wooden house will survive at all is the question.
Neunzig is considering going to her in-laws to sit out the hurricane. They live in a stone house at least, though they may face different problems. Neunzig lives at 2,000 meters, where the wind will be stronger. Her in-laws live in the woods, a bit lower down. "But there more floods threaten." In any case, leaving the island is not an option. According to the teacher, Saba has a small, tightly knit community. "We must get through this together."
The Albeda College in Rotterdam called back four students who were interning at the airport on Sint Maarten, RTV Rijnmond reports. The board of the college decided it was irresponsible to leave the students on the island to face the hurricane. They were flown back on Tuesday. "It's really hectic", one of the students described the situation on Sint Maarten to the broadcaster. "Windows are completely sealed. We wanted to buy groceries, but the supermarkets were empty, because everyone went shopping of course."
Oosterhout couple Gwen Aerts and Alexander Borgstein are on Sint Eustatius, where they were training local first responders on how to deal when a hurricane hits, Brabants Dagblad reports. Their students will now get practical experience much sooner than expected. Aerts is an ambulance nurse and trainer, her husband has a medical background and fire fighting experience. They are standing by at the Queen Beatrix Medical Center, alongside local emergency workers.
The emergency workers received their last briefing at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Dutch time and 3:00 p.m. local time. Now they're waiting to see if the hurricane will actually hit the island. Aerts told the newspaper that at the moment there's "no time and space" for being scared. "But there is stress. It's tense and we are alert. There are people from the Netherlands who told us that it is very cool and special to go through this. But it doesn't feel like that to us at all."