Sint Maarten plagued by looting in aftermath of Hurricane Irma
In addition to the material destruction Hurricane Irma left in its wake, the island of Sint Maarten is now also dealing with looters carrying off whatever they can get their hands on, according to various news sources.
An eye witness told BNR on Friday morning that armed looters are working in organized groups to take as much as they can. Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations confirmed the looting, according to Financieele Dagblad.
"Many people on Sint Maarten are only trying to survive and doing everything they can to get food and drink. We must keep the masses in check", former Prime Minister and current parliament chairman Sarah Wescott-Williams said about the looting on the island, according to NU.nl. The island urgently needs help. "The devastation of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten is so much worse than with all previous hurricanes we experienced", she said. "We had a huge blow. No one expected this. Everyone is astonished at the hurricane's power."
But according to local newspaper The Daily Herald, some looters aren't only going after the necessities. Jewelry stores on Front Street in capital Philipsburg were looted, bikes were stolen from the Harley Davidson store, and the iStore was emptied of mobile phones and tablets. Looters were also seen carrying away televisions and electronics, according tot he newspaper.
Front Street - famous for its many shops, resorts and restaurants - is quiet now, but around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, local time, the streets of Philipsburg were very dangerous, a local resident currently holidaying in Europe told NL Times based on information from her family. She is keeping in touch with them mainly through messages, and phone calls when she can get through.
Groups of armed men were roaming Front Street and looting as far as they went, according to the resident, who asked to remain anonymous. "The customs offices were totally plundered during the day. There are now more and more dangerous and armed people walking around the streets", she said.
The Dutch government sent soldiers to assist the local police in maintaining public order and give aid where they can. The Pilipsburg resident confirmed that the military and police are present in the city. They were cleaning the streets, but could not control the looting, the woman said to NL Times. "Local police are busy and some looters are armed with pieces of wood in their hands", she said.
"I lived on this island for many years, and I never saw people like that, like animals", the local resident said. "No electricity, no water, no house and stealing everything, even TVs."
Tourism director on the French side of the island, Bernadette Davis, put a plea on Facebook for the looting to stop. "Looting is not us. We are better than that. Please go deep inside and reach for that humanity - that GOD within us and do the right thing. Let us spend our time helping each other", she wrote.