Macron promises to rebuild St. Martin after Irma


French President Emmanuel Macron promised to help rebuild hurricane-ravaged St. Martin stating that “What I want to do is to have a very fast recovery, so we are trying to fix the situation regarding health, education, access to water, energy and telecom.” He pledged to rebuild St. Martin as a “model island” that would be a “showcase of French excellence” in terms of its ability to withstand storms. See excerpts from the New York Post and France 24:

[. . .] Macron, who reportedly slept on a camp cot, said he hoped changes would be noticeable by the end of the week.

During his tour of the decimated Leeward island, Macron was at times jeered by residents desperate for aid supplies or seeking flights to France. [. . .] Macron insisted that “everybody who wants to leave will be able to,” with officials saying that about 2,000 of the 35,000 residents on the French side of the island had already left. The south part of the island is Dutch territory.

He pledged to rebuild St. Martin as a “model island” that would be a “showcase of French excellence” in terms of its ability to withstand storms. “I don’t want to rebuild St. Martin as it was,” he said. “We have seen there are many homes that were built too precariously, with fragile infrastructure. The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks.”

Macron was heading Wednesday to the heavily damaged island of St. Barts with the French health minister, who has warned about diseases spreading on the islands.

At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean, including 11 on St. Martin, when Hurricane Irma blasted through a week ago, destroying homes, disrupting electricity and cutting off the water supplies.

Troops were deployed to help stem a rash of lootings. About 1,500 troops, police and emergency workers are on the ground and about 500 others were expected to arrive in the coming days, French authorities said.

“We have ordered one of the largest air lifts [of aid] since World War II,” Macron said upon arriving in Guadeloupe, France 24 reported. Ensuring a return to normal life is an “absolute priority,” he said. “We need help.”

[. . .] Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also was on a tour of the Caribbean to visit the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. Johnson also defended Britain’s performance from criticism the government had failed to provide enough help to British territories devastated by the storm. He said 1,000 British troops are in place to help residents and more are on the way.

On St. Maarten, the Dutch Red Cross said more than 200 people were still listed as missing — but with communications extremely spotty, it was unclear how many were simply without cell service and power and unable to let friends and family know they survived.

The organization said 90 percent of buildings on the Dutch territory were damaged and a third destroyed as Irma roared across the island it shares with French St. Martin. [. . .]

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