President Macron Visits French Caribbean islands ravaged by Hurricane Irma

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French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in the Caribbean today promising to rebuild the French territories ravaged by Hurricane Irma. According to CNN, speaking on the tarmac of the airport at Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, one of France’s overseas territories (départements d’outre-mer), Macron defended criticism that France was not prepared. The CNN article also includes comments by other leaders such as UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne:

[President Emmanuel Macron] pointed out that at the last minute the Category 3 storm they were expecting to land on Guadeloupe turned into a Category 5 and rammed St. Martin instead, 260 kilometers (about 160 miles) away. He plans to visit that beleaguered island later in the day. “I am here to talk about reconstruction,” he said. “When such a thing happens, life is never the same again. I want to rebuild not just a new life but also a better life.”

Macron said 11 people were killed in the French territories of St. Barts and St. Martin. That brings the death toll of Irma in the Leeward Islands and Cuba to at least 38. He said France had set up the biggest airlift to mainland France since the Second World War, with 2,000 people having left for the country or another French territory. Macron stressed that running water and electricity would be back soon in France’s Caribbean territories, and that he hoped schools would be reopened for at least a few hours early next week.

The French President said he plans to go on a patrol tonight with French security forces to see for himself that law and order have been restored following reports of widespread looting.

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Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is heading to the British overseas territory of Anguilla to offer his support to islanders there, Barbuda and the British Virgin islands, all of which suffered major devastation from the storms. He is expected to land later on Tuesday, the Foreign Office told CNN.

Speaking in the UK Parliament Tuesday, Alan Duncan, secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, said more than half a million British nationals — both residents and visitors — were caught up in Irma. He said London was working with US, German and Dutch authorities to organize the potential departure of the most vulnerable today.

Replying to criticism that the UK was slow to respond to the disaster, he said: “Our governance system is different from the French: we don’t directly govern, we circulate our troops around different territories. The French have troops permanently stationed there. These troops might not be there at the right time and could have been destroyed whereas ours were flexible.”

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands visited the Dutch side of the island, St. Maarten, on Monday as part of a tour of the region. Soon after arriving, he said: “We’re doing our best to help everybody who needs assistance so have faith in relief efforts.” Earlier, the Dutch military evacuated residents from the island, including children, to the Netherlands.

St. Martin/St. Maarten is just one of several small islands battered by the storm. Neighboring islands, including the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Antigua and Barbuda were all heavily affected by Hurricane Irma.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimated around 95% of the buildings on Barbuda had been damaged, if not destroyed.

Days after the storm, reports were emerging from St. Martin of food and fuel shortages, as well as a lack of clean water.

Evacuees arriving in the United States spoke of their horror as the hurricane passed overhead and the difficult cleanup that has followed.

“The problem now is there’s no supplies,” one woman told CNN at San Juan airport in Puerto Rico, where evacuees were being taken. “(We’re missing) gas for vehicles, diesel gas for generators, diesel gas for all the trucks and front loaders needed to clear the rubble.” [. . .]

[A picture taken on September 11 shows the rubbles from collapsed buildings in Grand-Case, on the French Caribbean island of Saint-Martin, Getty Images; http://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/12/americas/caribbean-irma-europe-macron/index.html. Photo of President Macron from https://www.voanews.com/a/france-macron-caribbean-islands-irma/4025358.html ]

For full article, see http://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/12/americas/caribbean-irma-europe-macron/index.html

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