Dutch king to visit hurricane-hit Sint Maarten

 11 Sep 2017 - 10:52

Dutch king to visit hurricane-hit Sint Maarten


The Hague: Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the devastated Caribbean island of Sint Maarten on Monday to view the aid operation for tens of thousands left stricken by Hurricane Irma, Dutch media reported.

"I am here to find out what has happened and how the coordination effort is going," the king told reporters after arriving in the nearby island of Curacao late Sunday.

Accompanied by Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk, the king toured in Curacao the aid coordination centre and visited patients who were airlifted to hospital from Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma downed power lines, cutting electricity and communications to the island.

"The only message I have at the moment, is that we know what you have gone through and we are doing our best to help everyone who is in need," Willem-Alexander added.

On Monday, besides Sint Maarten the 50-year-old king will also visit the Dutch territories of St Eustatius and Saba, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Some 70 percent of homes and infrastructure on Sint Maarten, the island the Netherlands shares with France's Saint Martin, once a popular tourist hotspot, were destroyed when Irma whipped through on Wednesday. Four people were killed in the storm.

The Dutch government has rushed aid and hundreds of troops to the island to help residents and restore order amid reports of looting.

"There is still no functioning public administration" on Sint Maarten, Plasterk told reporters, quoted by ANP.

And despite efforts to restore security "you still cannot talk about a safe situation," he added.

Mass distribution of food and water was due to start Monday in Sint Maarten, and desalination equipment and purification tablets were also on their way.

After touring the worst-hit islands, the king will fly home on Tuesday from Curacao, the public broadcaster NOS said.