Grid List

PHILIPSBURG--No additional damage was caused to the country’s critical infrastructure following the passage of Hurricane Maria earlier this week, Prime Minister William Marlin said in a statement issued later Wednesday night.

“Thank God for that. However, we need all hands on deck to get our country back to where it belongs. So, let's get to work, St. Maarten,” Marlin said. “No Irma, no Maria, no super-storm is superior to our indomitable spirit. As has now become popular to say, we are St. Maarten strong. We will emerge from this better, smatter, stronger and more united.”

This certainly will go down as one of the worst hurricane seasons ever in the Caribbean. “I can't remember any time in recent memory when so many islands in our region have been so heavily devastated by such very powerful storms and we still have some ways to go before the season officially ends,” Marlin said.

Maria, an extremely dangerous category five storm, crawled past our island, dumping a significant amount of rain and brushing the country with tropical storm force winds. “We therefore need to fall on our knees and thank Him for sparing us from the real wrath of Maria,” he said, whilst offering prayers for the sister Caribbean islands impacted by the hurricane’s wrath.

Marlin thanked the people of St. Maarten for their efforts to clean up and return the country to some state of normalcy. “You are the real heroes in this unimaginable tragedy …That response is visible in the way you have been cleaning up your neighbourhoods before Maria rudely interrupted your efforts.”

He commended the “peaceful and orderly manner” residents have been lining up for water, food and other essential supplies. “I am extremely proud of you and I am convinced more than ever before that when we come together as one united and proud St. Maarten people, there is nothing we can't accomplish.”

“There will be those who will try to sow seeds of division and discord among us to further their own agenda. We must not allow them to succeed.  There will be some, even among us, who will seek to exploit our mistakes to discredit our institutions and make it look as if we cannot handle this catastrophe. We should tell them to take a good look at our history of struggle,” Marlin said.

All of St. Maarten’s “friends and partners within the Kingdom and beyond” were thanked for their outpouring of support in the country’s time of need. “We really appreciate your assistance, which we will continue to need and seek as we rebuild our country step by step, day by day, brick by brick,” he said.

SZV customers who are now in Curaçao due to evacuation or Medical Referral

can contact the following numbers for medical related information:

• Dr. Marly Oosterhof – tel.: (5999) 522 4957 or

• Ms Tessa Jansen - tel.: (5999) 516 6663

• Mw. Joanne Schet , tel: (+5999) 516 6663

EDITORIAL

One week after taking a direct hit from the strongest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, the islands where this newspaper appears are slowly but surely starting to recover. The devastation in St. Maarten/St. Martin was so severe and widespread that practically everyone had to deal with their own problems before even being able to assist others.

Hurricane Irma was up to category 4 Monday evening, with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and some additional strengthening forecast. That’s frighteningly similar to Luis exactly 22 years ago today, which devastated the island.
Although winds of hurricane force with this considerably smaller system extend outward only 40 miles and of storm force 140 miles from the centre, that won’t matter a whole lot if it passes very close to or directly over the local area. The Met Office expects Irma to move near St. Maarten tonight into early Wednesday.
However, there are more differences compared to September 5, 1995. For one thing much of the electricity grid is now underground, greatly reducing the risk of power outages or short circuits to due to blown-over utility poles or overhead cables being broken by falling trees, branches and other debris.
The former issue with seaweed clogging the Cay Bay energy plant’s intake has also been at least partly resolved, so hopefully that won’t be a problem either. The Pointe Blanche auxiliary water plant was shut down due to rough marine conditions as a precaution, but storage tanks are still being filled and there is enough in reserve for several days
And it’s not only from Luis that valuable lessons were learned. After Hurricane Lenny flooded a large part of Philipsburg in November 1999 new floodgates were installed between Fresh and Great Salt Ponds, while the pumping capacity of the latter was increased. VROMI crews and contractors have also been clearing drains and trenches to prevent blockage.
Perhaps most important, the many structures damaged or destroyed two decades ago were as a rule rebuilt stronger than before. That is also the main reason some pretty intense fairly recent hurricane-hits like that of Gonzalo did not have a hugely destructive effect on most proper buildings.
So, one could say the island and its people are on the whole better able to withstand these tropical systems than ever before. However, this is certainly no reason to underestimate the impact of a major hurricane like Irma which could even reach catastrophic category 5 proportions before all is said and done.
Stay safe.

SANTO DOMINGO--Dominican Republic closed most of its ports ahead of Hurricane Maria, but the country's 34,000-barrel-per-day refinery was still running, the government said on Wednesday.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- Hurricane Maria caused "mind boggling damage," ripping off roofs across the small island of Dominica before pushing on toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the second top-strength storm to lash the Caribbean this month.

Maria regained rare Category 5 strength, the top end of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, as it churned about 170 miles (275 km) southeast of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. forecasters said.

It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour (260 km per hour), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, describing Maria as "potentially catastrophic."

The storm plowed through Dominica, a mountainous island nation of 72,000 people in the eastern Caribbean, late on Monday causing devastation that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described as "mind boggling."

"The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with," Skerrit said in a Facebook post, describing an avalanche of torn-away roofs across the country, including that of his own residence.

"My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured," he said.

The storm made landfall on Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane with 155-mph (250-kph) winds, the NHC said. Its intensity may fluctuate over the next day or two, but Maria is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 storm, the Miami-based center said.

The region was hit just days ago by Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record and devasted several small islands, including Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, and causing heavy damage in Cuba and Florida. Irma killed at least 84 people in the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.

Maria was on track to move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Tuesday night or early on Wednesday.

The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, said Maria would pass within 10 miles (16 km) of the island of St. Croix, which escaped the brunt of Irma on Sept. 6. The island is home to about 55,000 year-round residents, roughly half of the entire territory's population.

At a news conference on Monday evening, Mapp warned of drenching rains. He predicted that most islanders would be without electricity for weeks, and "some folks will not get power in months." A curfew would be imposed starting at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, he said.

SHELTER IN A BATHTUB

Mapp urged St. Croix residents to take cover in one of three emergency shelters on the island. For those choosing to stay in their homes during the storm, he said, they might consider climbing into a second-floor bathtub and pulling a mattress over them to stay safe in the event they lose their roofs.

Forecasts predict Maria will be the worst storm to hit St. Croix since Hugo, a Category 4 storm, in 1989.

The territory's two other main islands, St. Thomas and St. John, which lie to the north of St. Croix, sustained widespread and heavy damage from Irma.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory with about 3.4 million inhabitants, avoided a direct hit two weeks ago from Irma as that storm skirted north, although it still saw damage.

Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, urged residents on Twitter to brace for Maria's arrival, saying, "It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend or head to a state shelter."

Residents rushed to buy plywood, water and other supplies.

If Maria retains its strength, it would be the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years, since a Category 4 storm swept the territory in 1932, Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. The last major hurricane to strike Puerto Rico directly was Georges, which made landfall there as a Category 3 storm in 1998, he said.

FRENCH TERRITORIES

The French island of Martinique escaped Maria largely unscathed but a communications blackout with fellow French territory Guadeloupe meant it would be several more hours before damage there could be assessed, Jacques Witkowski, France's head of civil protection, told reporters in Paris.

In Saint Martin, where nearly a third of all buildings on the Dutch half of the island were destroyed by Irma, the airport and harbor were closed ahead of Maria's approach.

"Saint Martin is the big concern because a lot of homes lost their roofs. They are vulnerable to a lot of rain, which will only make the situation worse," said Paul Middelberg, a spokesman for the Dutch navy.

Maria was expected to whip up storm surges - seawater driven ashore by wind - of up to 9 feet (2.7 m) above normal tide levels, the NHC said. Parts of Puerto Rico could see up to 25 inches (64 cm) of rain, it said.

Maria is the 13th named Atlantic storm of the year, the seventh hurricane so far this season and the fourth major hurricane - defined as Category 3 or higher - following Harvey, Irma and Jose, the NHC said. Those numbers are all above average for a typical season, which is only about half over for 2017.

FRANKFURT--Italy's UniCredit has recently told Berlin it is interested in eventually merging with state-backed Commerzbank, two people familiar with the matter said, a combination that would create one of Europe's biggest banks.

ESSEN, Germany--Germany's Thyssenkrupp and India's Tata Steel agreed on Wednesday to merge their European steel operations, creating the continent's No.2 steelmaker with revenues of 15 billion euros ($18 billion).

LAUSANNE, Switzerland--Ai Wei-Wei denounced China's crackdown on lawyers and free speech on Wednesday but saw little hope that the upcoming Communist Party Congress would lead to more freedoms.

MIAMI--Jake LaMotta, the brutish former boxing champion whose life of violence in and out of the ring was portrayed in the movie "Raging Bull," died on Tuesday, according to one of his daughters.

UNITED NATIONS--Iran vowed on Wednesday not to be the first nation to violate the Iran nuclear deal and said it did not expect the United States to abandon it despite President Donald Trump's fierce criticism.

WASHINGTON--Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, offered to provide briefings to a Russian billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin on the status of the 2016 U.S. presidential election less than two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

NAIROBI--Kenya's Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the election board for failing to verify official results of last month's presidential election before announcing them but stopped short of saying there was rigging.

MEXICO CITY--Rescuers frantically worked to dig a young girl out from under the rubble of a partially collapsed school on Wednesday, a small glimmer of hope amid devastation from a major earthquake that killed at least 225 people across central Mexico.

Television network Televisa broadcast the dramatic rescue attempt live after crews at the school in southern Mexico City reported finding the girl, seeing her move her hand and threading a hose through debris to get her water.

The identity of the girl was not immediately known. The effort to rescue her is part of a search for dozens of victims feared buried beneath the Enrique Rebsamen school, where local officials reported 21 children and 4 adults dead after Tuesday's quake. The school is one of hundreds of buildings destroyed by the country's deadliest earthquake in a generation.

The magnitude 7.1 quake, which killed at least 94 people in the capital alone, struck 32 years to the day after a 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Mexico is also still reeling from a powerful tremor that killed nearly 100 people in the south of the country less than two weeks ago.

As rescue efforts continued at the school, a facility for children aged 3 to 14, emergency crews, volunteers and bystanders toiled elsewhere using dogs, cameras and heat-seeking equipment to detect survivors. Reinforcements also began to arrive from countries including Panama, Israel and Chile, local media reported.

Hundreds of neighbours and emergency workers spent the night pulling rubble from the ruins of the school with their bare hands under the glare of floodlights. Three survivors were found at around midnight as volunteer rescue teams known as "moles" crawled deep under the rubble.

By Wednesday morning, the workers said a teacher and two students had sent text messages from within the rubble. Parents clung to hope that their children were alive. "They keep pulling kids out, but we know nothing of my daughter," said 32-year-old Adriana D'Fargo, her eyes red, who had been waiting for hours for news of her seven-year-old.

Overnight, volunteers with bullhorns shouted the names of rescued kids so that tense family members could be reunited with them. The earthquake toppled dozens of buildings, tore gas mains and sparked fires across the city and other towns in central Mexico. Falling rubble and billboards crushed cars.

Even wealthier parts of the capital, including the Condesa and Roma neighbourhoods, were badly damaged as older buildings buckled. Because bedrock is uneven in a city built on a drained lake bed, some districts weather quakes better than others. Parts of colonial-era churches crumbled in the adjacent state of Puebla, where the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the quake's epicenter some 100 miles (158 km) southwest of the capital.

Around the same time that the earth shook, Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano, visible from the capital on a clear day, had a small eruption. On its slopes, a church in Atzitzihuacan collapsed during Mass, killing 15 people, Puebla Governor Jose Antonio Gali said.

In Rome, Pope Francis said he was praying for Mexico, a majority Catholic country. "In this moment of pain, I want to express my closeness and prayers to all the beloved Mexican people," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you." Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke at length on Wednesday, according to the White House.

Residents of Mexico City, home to some 20 million people, slept in the streets while authorities and volunteers distributed food and water at tented collection centers. Other volunteers, soldiers and firefighters formed human chains and dug with hammers and picks to find dust-covered survivors and bodies in the remains of apartment buildings, schools and a factory.

With each layer of rubble that was removed, workers pled onlookers and volunteers for silence, desperate to hear the sound of any survivors below. Some volunteers in Mexico City expressed frustration at the disorganization among military and civilian emergency services, which competed over who would lead the rescue efforts.

"There is so much bureaucracy and so many obstacles in the way of getting these kids out alive," said Alfredo Perez, 52, a freelance civil engineer, who arrived at the Enrique Rebsamen school in the early hours of the morning to help.

The middle-class neighbourhood of Del Valle was hit hard, with several buildings toppling over on one street. Reserve rescue workers arrived late at night and were still pulling survivors out early Wednesday.

With power out in much of the city overnight, the work was carried out with flashlights and generators. Moises Amador Mejia, a 44-year-old employee of the civil protection agency, worked late into the night looking for people trapped in a collapsed building in the bohemian Condesa neighborhood. "The idea is to stay here until we find who is inside. Day and night."

In Obrera, central Mexico City, people applauded when rescuers managed to retrieve four people alive, with cheers of "Si se puede." -- "Yes we can." -- ringing out. Volunteers arrived throughout the night, following calls from the civil protection agency, the Red Cross and firefighters.

The quake killed 94 people in the capital by Wednesday morning, according to Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera. In Morelos State, just to the south, 71 people died, with hundreds of homes destroyed. In Puebla at least 43 died.

Another 17 people were reported killed in the states of Mexico, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The governor of Morelos state declared five days of mourning.

Nearly 5 million homes, businesses and other facilities lost electricity, according to national power company Comision Federal de Electricidad, including 40 percent of homes in Mexico City. Power was later re-established to 90 percent of the areas affected.

Still, much business and industry in affected areas suffered interruptions. After the quake struck, carmaker Volkswagen AG temporarily shut its sprawling Puebla factory, its biggest outside of Germany, but then restarted operations Tuesday night, according to a statement from the company.

MADRID - Atletico Madrid secured a 2-1 victory at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday as keeper Jan Oblak made a pivotal first-half penalty save and goals from Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco wrapped up victory after the break. It looked as if the visitors would pay for their early profligacy when Atletico's former player Raul Garcia won a contentious penalty on the stroke of halftime, as defender Filipe Luis appeared to win the ball outside the box.

Oblak, however, kept out Aritz Aduriz’s effort to extend his impressive record from the spot to six saves from his last 10 penalties faced. Angel Correa then opened the scoring 10 minutes after the restart before Carrasco’s effort secured the points.

Atletico were left nervously hanging on after Garcia scored with a stoppage-time volley for Bilbao.

Diego Simeone’s side held on, however, to extend their unbeaten start to the season and move into second place ahead of the night’s late kickoff between Real Madrid and Real Betis. (Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Toby Davis)
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PRAGUE-- Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will set aside their long-time rivalry when they play for Europe against the rest of the world in the inaugural Laver Cup tournament which starts on Friday.

Team Europe, featuring the world's top two players, are overwhelming favourites to win the three-day tournament, which is named after Australian great Rod Laver, with a squad boasting a combined 36 grand slam titles against one for Team World.

The teams are captained by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, whose own rivalry starting in the 1970s featured a contrast in temperament and style that made their matches the kind of must-watch events that Laver Cup organisers hope to showcase.

"I've been watching these guys play for so many years, it's going to be a fun weekend," Borg, now 61, told reporters on Wednesday. "But make no mistake, we are here to win."

Conceived by Federer and his sports management company Team8, the tournament is the latest to join a crowded calendar and comes on the heels of the Davis Cup semi-finals last week.

World number two Federer played down the impact of another event, saying matches over a short period were manageable and gave players on the two teams the chance to build camaraderie.

"I don't think it's too much otherwise all the players wouldn't be here," the Swiss great told a news conference.

"The best (players) in the world are very picky in what (tournaments) they play, which (is why it) is great they made this a priority."

"(We're) looking forward to making friendships because we play together and not against each other for a change."

EUROPE FAVOURED

Team Europe also includes German Alexander Zverev, Croatia's Marin Cilic, Austrian Dominic Thiem and Czech Tomas Berdych.

Team World features Americans Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe plus Australia's Nick Krygios and Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

With five players inside the world's top 10, the Borg-led European squad is heavily favoured against a world team hit by Argentine Juan Martin del Potro's late withdrawal due to injury.

"I'm expecting a lot of fun but at the same time I know it's going to be very competitive," the 22-year-old Krygios told reporters. "We are the underdogs."

The tournament, which will rotate between Europe and the rest of the world each year, features three singles and one doubles match each day. A win is worth one point on Friday, two on Saturday and three on Sunday.

In a bid to keep the pace humming, the indoor hard court matches at Prague's O2 Arena will be best-of-three sets with a 10-point tiebreak deciding the final set.

With no player featuring in singles more than twice during the first two days, Nadal and Federer could see themselves on the same side of the net in a mouthwatering doubles pairing.

"We don’t even know if captain Borg is going to pick us but, of course, I would love to play with Rafa and see that forehand do damage on the other side (of the net)," Federer said.

"I’m sure that the crowd would go absolutely crazy and just because of that it would just be great to play us potentially."

Dear editor,

I am standing in line - or rather in a disorganized congregation of desperate souls - in the parking lot of St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport, once the second busiest airport in the Caribbean, now a shell of sheetrock, concrete, metal and glass; the main terminal building is completely gutted. My partner is some feet away, seeking shelter from the searing mid-day sun in the shadow of a delivery van flipped unto its side, all its windows blown out and its bonnet lying across the street.

On the van’s bent fender a parrot is inexplicably perched, ogling the some one-thousand people filling the parking lot with desperate chaos, trying, like us, to evacuate ourselves or our loved ones out of St. Maarten. The island is still reeling from the one-hundred and eighty-five mile per hour winds and subsequent civil unrest brought upon by one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, a storm with a name that will live on in infamy in the collective psyche of every Caribbean community from Barbados to Cuba; Hurricane Irma.

Dutch Marines are handing out hot bottled water to people congregated in different sections: one section for US citizens with US Embassy staff running around with clipboards; one section for Dutch Citizens evacuating to Curacao and then onwards to the Netherlands on military transport aircraft; one section with EU Citizens, getting pink and then purple under the blazing Caribbean sun and looking wide eyed at the destruction around them; and us, desperate Caribbean Nationals (Michelle is Jamaican and was visiting me on Sint Maarten) trying to find word on whether people will be evacuated to Antigua and then onwards to Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Kitts...anywhere. We are all Caribbean Climate Change Refugees.

A week before, as holidaymakers were disembarking their flights on jet bridges now twisted like foilpaper, a low-pressure system started to develop off the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic. Three days later, as cruise ship passengers meandered out of the Majesty of the Seas unto Front Street, our main tourism center, that low developed into Tropical Storm Irma. By the next day, when she hit unusually warm sea surface temperatures not far from the Lesser Antilles, Irma became a Category Three storm. The day after that Category Five, intensifying more rapidly than any other storm on record. Tomorrow the Majesty of the Seas will be docking here again, not to have her passengers buy jewelry and electronics on Front Street but to evacuate three thousand people off of the island. Besides, the jewelry and electronics were looted clean even before the storm stopped raging.

Irma struck on Wednesday morning. The day before Marine Park Staff helped to secure various boats in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. We tied our patrol boat down and together had what we knew would be our last cold beer for a while. Predictions weren’t looking good. While we hoped that Irma would head north the various weather models had the storm hitting us directly. We knew we were in for trouble. We secured our houses, bought our last supplies and hunkered down. By four on Wednesday morning Michelle and I, two dogs and a cat were riding the storm out in our guest bedroom, then kitchen, then guest bedroom again; the pressure popping our ears and the concrete building shaking as if in an earthquake.

The storm humming and sucking like a living, breathing, thing, a thing upset at the very presence of humanity. At one point our ceiling flexed as if being pushed and pulled from above. At six the eye passed and we fled to our downstairs neighbours. Our windows blew out and ceiling caved in. By twelve the storm was done. As I stepped out on our balcony and witnessed the destruction I thanked God; we were lucky to be alive. Ninety percent of all buildings were flat. Not a single leaf was on a tree, and hundred-foot ships lay across the street as if placed there by a giant child playing Battleship. St. Maarten had been decimated.

Unfortunately this will be the increasing reality of our situation here in the Caribbean. This paradise of fun and merriment, of frozen beverages and beautiful beaches, of music and sunscreen, will increasingly be faced with disasters brought upon us by a warming climate. As industrialized nations discuss and meet and hold Fora and COPs deliberating the consequences of a warming earth, as the US President withdraws from the Paris Climate Accords (while ironically having a house on French Saint Martin that was completely obliterated by Irma), as the world struggles with our addiction to fossil fuels and their impact on the climate, we are trying to put the pieces of our lives back together as Caribbean People. We are trying to adjust to the New Normal: to our new status as Caribbean Climate Change Refugees.

Barbuda, where I did fieldwork surveying the health of their coral reefs just a few months ago, has been declared uninhabitable; the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda ordering mandatory evacuations off of the island. A whole community displaced because of the effects of climate change. Anguilla, one of the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean, has been leveled and Necker Island, home of billionaire Philanthropist Richard Branson, has been destroyed. And, as I write this, a lady is washing her two children in brackish well-water. Adversity brings equality.

In the aftermath of the storm local governments, especially on Sint Maarten, struggled to control law and order and the island descended into lawlessness. First people looted water and food, and then they emptied out electronic stores, jewelry stores, anything. I saw one guy dragging his barely clad children behind him with three flat screen TV’s on his head. The island likely will not have power fully restored for months. Rumours spread like wildfire of armed gangs pillaging whole neighbourhoods, emptying hotel rooms, robbing at gunpoint. Whether true or not the news spread around the world and our island will be eternally scarred. People have been frantically waiting for a government in disarray to feed and water them. The Dutch Military has arrived to restore law and order, placing us under martial law. There are now armed marines patrolling streets that, just a week ago, were lined with bars, restaurants and strip-joints.

While working in the conservation field we have been continuously preaching sustainable development to Caribbean Governments. We have been advocating a structured social welfare system, a sustainable economic plan not totally reliant on tourism, and the protection and management of our natural resources. Resources like coral reefs or mangroves, which not only provide goods and services like tourism and fisheries, but which also protect our vulnerable coastlines and critical infrastructure from the damaging effects of hurricane storm surge. Because of the decline of both coral reefs and mangroves and because of Irma’s unabated twenty foot storm surge I have had to do a diving survey of the Simpson Bay Lagoon earlier today. There is a sunken boat every five meters. The water is more diesel than salt. We will be diving again tomorrow to see if there are any bodies to recover.

Long time neglect by most Caribbean Governments of their natural areas has reduced the ability of island ecosystems to be resilient enough to recover from disasters; to allow for the nature of these islands to return to its beauty, the reason why tourism is so popular on all of the islands hit by Irma. Our islands are now changed. Forever.

We are at the head of the line now. We have said our hurried good-byes, tearful and fearful, wondering when and where we will see each-other again as Michelle is hurried away by the Dutch military to her waiting evacuation aircraft. As I stay and watch the tiny plane leave for Antigua two women are chatting about which school in the Dominican Republic they will now have to send their young daughters to since all schools on the island are damaged. A few feet away, in the shade of the upturned delivery van where just an hour ago we sought shade, two of the girls are trying to teach the parrot to say a word. As I walk towards my truck I hear it squawk “Irma”.

Tadzio Bervoets
Ebenezer Estate,
St. Maarten

Dear Editor,
The passage of Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc on the island of St. Maarten and in its wake has transformed the island’s landscape. Sections of the island now bear a spitting resemblance to a disaster zone with buildings and houses severely damaged and in some cases completely obliterated. Key infrastructure and installations continue to be affected and as a result of extensive damage with some roads still impassable at the time of writing this letter.
However, I am constantly reassured that collectively the people of St. Maarten are very resilient and sooner rather than later that resilience will serve as the catalyst to propel this beautiful island back on the road to recovery.
While some experts have intimated that the destructive power of a hurricane the likes of Irma in one day is equivalent to the detonation of 800 atomic bombs, what was equally and continued to be even more worrisome was the state of lawlessness, moral decadence and anarchy with which sections of the society descended into during the passing and aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Pilfering and looting were widespread almost every- and anywhere the opportunity presented itself and subsequently became the modus operandi for acquiring property, food supplies, vehicles and other material comfort.
Did this behavior mimic a state of nature? Did we render null and void Jean Jacques Roseau’s “Social Contract” in which he articulated that for the concept of society to be upheld its subjects must surrender certain public freedoms and rights in exchange for security and order? Thus far, living within the walls and confines of society seems to be preferred to a state of nature. At the most fundamental level, is this who we are as human beings that if exposed to the right stimulus the beast in us would want to go back to the woods – that primal appeal we all share as human beings of wanting to escape the cognitive mode of experience?
What really motivated some among us to act and behave the way they did? I there a biological basis for behavior that we seem incapable and powerless to control in certain circumstances? In the absence of hard evidence or proof I am of the opinion that it is reasonable to conjecture that there were quite a lot of people whose moral compact pointed them in the right direction and they in turn took a position not to plunder and ravage these businesses and properties simply because their conscience dictated it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Incidentally, though, I am also of the opinion too that some folks weren’t the “holier than thou” kinds in that they had no religious justification for their decisions but just the sheer weight of their conscience, which ironically was the case with many of the sanctimonious hypocrites who were seen entering and exiting looted premises. These are the kinds of people who will sing “Hosana” with you in the morning and in the evening they say “crucify him!”
There are quite a lot of well-meaning people in this society that can be considered as model citizens with a heightened sense of what is right and what is wrong and certainly not morally bankrupt. What, then, are the factors responsible for the moral superiority of the beings? Again I am unable to say conclusively, but what I can say with some degree of certainty from the available evidence is that nurture seems to be leading and dominating nature.
Was reason – that strict untiring governess – convicted of inadequacy, resulting in the savage-like behavior of looters who found immediate gratification at the expense of long-term benefits and implications more appealing?
If one were to examine his or her intended actions prior to a dispassionate way prior to engaging in the act of looting it would have become clear, of not partially clear, that the cost of one’s actions would have far outweighed the benefits, the extent of which this was difficult to deduce I am unable to say.
Those many among us who chose not to go “shopping” during closing hours without either cash, plastic or even accompanied by the Mr. Credit allowed good sense to prevail and understand the implications for themselves, businesses and the island of St, Maarten as a whole. It was very sad and heart-rending to learn that some of these businesses were victims of individuals they have been supporting and sustaining for years, whether in the form of direct employment or indirectly through other services they routinely required. Sad! Very sad!
My hope is that we will desist from biting the hands that continue to feed and provide for the wellbeing of ourselves, families and this beautiful island of St. Maarten. I am very much aware that one should not be judged by his or her worst moments, because as human beings we all have the capacity for change, so let’s use this time to reflect on our actions and inactions going forward.

Orlando Paatterson

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