Hurricane Irma Hits the French Carribean
Emmanuel Macron toured the hurricane-whipped islands of Guadeloupe and Saint Martin bringing with him water, food, medicine, emergency equipment, doctors and expert assessors to determine the extent of the islands' damage. Macron told residents and reporters that the aid package is "one of the largest airlifts since World War II."
Still, beleaguered residents were unhappy with the government's response, with one even questioning why Macron was on the island. The evacuation effort was criticized for prioritizing tourists and mainlanders over the local population, a prioritization that often resulted in whites being evacuated before others.
Of the 35,000 residents on the French side of St. Martin, 2,000 have been evacuated. Many buildings are demolished and only three schools, out of the 21 on St. Martin, remain standing. Macron promised the people that restoring the island to a normal way of life was an "absolute priority."
The first priority is to ensure that students return to school. The government is providing inflatable and air conditioned tents that will serve as classrooms. Prime Minister Philippe unveiled the restoration plans in their entirety, explaining that drinkable water would not be available for three months and that bottled water will be provided by aid organizations. School is expected to resume in early November.
Still many islanders are looking to be evacuated to mainland France. A transport carrying 278 survivors arrived in Paris from the French Antilles. Of the 24,000 homes and businesses located on the islands, 3,500 have power. High capacity generators are on the way but when the electrical grid will be completely functional is unclear. It is likely that more people will seek rescue.
Back in the Antilles, 1,500 troops and other emergency support workers have been assigned to the islands where they are working to treat people and prevent looting. Overall the islands sustained an estimated €1 billion, but that is the low-end estimate.
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