Dutch PM: We will not let Sint Maarten down

Dutch Navy ship Zr.Ms. Pelikaan unloads emergency supplies on Sint Maarten following Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017
Dutch Navy ship Zr.Ms. Pelikaan unloads emergency supplies on Sint Maarten following Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017Photo: @C_ZMCARIB / Twitter

Hurricane Irma not only caused massive material destruction on Sint Maarten, but also enormously disrupted the population, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a press conference on Friday after the second crisis meeting about the situation on the island that forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He emphasized that the Netherlands will provide all possible support. "We will not let Sint Maarten down", he said, the Telegraaf reports..

The Prime Minister confirmed reports of looting on Sint Maarten, saying that the situation is serious. The local public administration has great difficulty in carrying out its tasks, partly due to the fact that communication still hasn't been restored. Rutte could not say anything more about victims. On Thursday it became known that at least one person was killed on the Dutch side of the island. 

Food, water and safety are the priorities at the moment, Rutte said. "We are trying to get as much food, water and medicine as possible there in the shortest possible time, but also tents, tarpaulins and sanitary kits." 

Rutte will be meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron later on Friday. Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs already spoke with his French and British counterparts on Thursday.

According to Koenders, the Netherlands and France will jointly determine how to best support the population of Sint Maarten - part of the island is Dutch territory, the other part is French territory - once there is more clarity about the consequences of the hurricane and the damage it caused. There is contact with all levels of the French government, he said. "At operational, diplomatic, and political level, there is continuous contact and cooperation, and people from, among others, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are deployed to provide first aid."

Sint Maarten will be hit by the next hurricane, Jose, on Saturday. The strongest winds are expected during the early hours of Saturday morning local time, according to Het Parool. It will then be afternoon in the Netherlands. According to Weerplaza, a small silver lining is that the eye of Hurricane Jose will not come very close to Sint Maarten. The strongest winds are on the edges of the center, up to wind power 12. Sint Maarten can expect winds of power 8. But as the island was hit so hard by Hurricane Irma, this relatively weaker hurricane poses significant problems.

Residents will experience some frightening hours when Hurricane Jose hits, weatherman Michiel Severin said on Weerplaza.nl. "In the dark, the winds start to swell again, you hear the roar of the wind and the breaking of the waves, while the rains also add to the commotion", he said. From Sunday, calmer weather will return to the island, and the rebuilding can start in earnest.