Today, Tuesday September 12th, the Kingdom Council of Ministers met to talk about the current situation on the islands of St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, which have been hard hit by hurricane Irma.
In the Kingdom Council of Ministers maintaining law and order and the emergency relief to the three islands were discussed. This involves first of all the distribution of basic necessities (food and water) and emergency supplies for people who have no roof over their heads, recovery of vital infrastructure and healthcare (prevention of outbreak of infectious diseases and restoration of the hospital on St. Maarten.
There were also talks about what is needed in the coming period to once again restore public life on the three islands as good as possible. Dutch teams were sent to St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, who together with local authorities and aid workers are mapping what is necessary.
The Netherlands, Curaçao and Aruba are doing what is within their means to provide relief. In the Kingdom Council of Ministers was established and underlined that the countries of the Kingdom lends each other help and assistance in accordance with the provision in the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Also, thanks were expressed to marines, officers, aid workers and volunteers from the different countries and parts of the Kingdom for their efforts.
In the Kingdom Council of Ministers are seated the Dutch Ministers and Plenipotentiary Ministers of the other autonomous countries within the Kingdom: Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten. Saba and St. Eustatius, as well as Bonaire have the status of Public Entity within the country the Netherlands and fall under the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
King Willem-Alexander has described the devastation on Sint-Maarten as ‘beyond anything you can imagine’ after visiting the Dutch Caribbean island in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Around 70% of homes on Sint-Maarten were destroyed in the storm last week and large parts of the island are inaccessible, with no running water or telephone network. ‘I could see it already from the plane: I’ve never experienced anything like it,’ said the king. ‘I’ve seen plenty of destruction in my time from wars and natural disasters, but I’ve never seen this.’
He also spoke of his admiration for the inhabitants as they tried to pick up the pieces of their lives. ‘You can see people are working hard to clear it all up. They’re saying: we’re standing together shoulder to shoulder and we’re going to rebuild this island. They believe in the future.’
It is not clear if Sint-Maarten will be eligible for European Union funding to help with the enormous cost of restoration. While the French half of the island, Saint Martin, is a constituent part of France and automatically qualifies for EU subsidies, Sint-Maarten is a separate nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and not officially part of the EU.
Dutch MEP Agnes Jongerius said the urgency of the situation was more important than any regulations: ‘The rules don’t matter here. People on Sint-Maarten need help.’ The EU has already allocated €2 million in emergency funds for immediate disaster relief to restore basic essentials on Sint-Maarten such as drinking water and sanitation. The European Parliament is due to debate aid to the affected islands on Wednesday.