Evacuees arrive from French Caribbean
Approximately 400 people who were stranded on some of the islands that were hard-hit by Hurricane Irma have been evacuated to France and the Netherlands, TheLocal.fr reports.
A military plane carrying 278 passengers landed in Paris. Another plane took nearly 200 people to Eindhoven.
Although President Emmanuel Macron is currently visiting the French Caribbean to assess the damage, some critics say that his government – as well as the Dutch government – moved too slowly.
According to some observers, slow governmental response exacerbated problems with looters on St. Barthelemy and St. Martin. Many of the evacuees told stories of roving gangs with weapons, regular people carrying baseball bats and organizing into militias for defense, and police authorities that were unable or unwilling to keep order and ensure safety.
Criticism of the Dutch has been heavier than criticism of the French. One woman said Sint Maarten "literally looks like a war zone."
Another woman who had come to meet her daughter at DeGaulle Airport said, "They gave us phone numbers but they didn't work. Only social media and solidarity worked."
The British government has also come in for some criticism. Five U.K. citizens were killed in the British Virgin Islands.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed the criticism. The U.K. has promised £32 million in aid and has been deploying troops and supplies since late last week.
Hurricane Irma destroyed almost 60 percent of the homes on some islands.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Macron’s most formidable critic in the legislature, has demanded an investigation into the adequacy of the French response. He raised the possibility that more security forces should be sent to St. Martin to help those who remain there.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe expressed frustration with the criticism, which he characterized as political grandstanding. He called for "solidarity with our citizens, many of whom have lost everything.”
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