Sint Maarten recovery could take two years after Hurricane Irma damage

Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017
Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017Photo: @C_ZMCARIB / Twitter

Sint Maarten hopes that the island can recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma within a year or two, deputy minister of the island Henrietta Doran-York said after a national council meeting in The Hague on Tuesday. She also praised the cooperation between the Netherlands and Sint Maarten in the run-up and aftermath of the hurricane, and refuted criticism about a lack of preparation for the hurricane, RTL Nieuws reports.

"The Netherlands is doing its best for Sint Maarten", Doran York said to the broadcaster. "I'm confident that reconstruction be done in one or two years." She added that Sint Maarten is "extremely grateful for the help". "The communication and cooperation between the Netherlands and Sint Maarten is going well and I look forward to further cooperation. You'll always get criticism. It's just part of it."

The deputy minister said that a lot is expected from the Netherlands in Sint Maarten's recovery, but she is confident that the small autonomous country that forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be rebuilt in the foreseeable future. "With soon I don't mean today, or in a few weeks. But if Sint Maarten is restored over a year or two, I consider it soon."

The first priority is caring for the around 40 thousand inhabitants of the island. Around 70 percent of the homes on Sint Maarten sustained severe damage or collapsed completely. After that, infrastructure must be restored. "It will cost a lot of money, how much I do not know."

Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs expects that the European Union will give some financial support to Sint Maarten, according to the Telegraaf. There are doubts about whether Sint Maarten can count on aid from the EU disaster fund, as the autonomous country does not form part of the European Union. But as Sint Maarten is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Koenders believes that it is possible. "We certainly think that everybody should benefit from that money", he said to the newspaper. 

Public orders is slowly but steadily being restored on the island, Minister Stef Blok of Security and Justice said to the Telegraaf. He reports that the prison is in use again and that soldiers are reducing the looting.