by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Sept 19, 2017
The British Virgin Islands was under curfew Tuesday as the Caribbean archipelago, still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma earlier this month, braced for another megastorm.
"While Hurricane Maria may not be as strong as Hurricane Irma, our present reality is also very different," Orlando Smith, the premier of the self-governing British territory, warned in a statement.
"Effects such as potential flooding and high winds that can turn debris into dangerous projectiles can have a greater and more treacherous impact for us.
"Many residents are still displaced, homes are not fully secured and our natural protections have had severe damage due to the passage of Hurricane Irma.
"Our islands are extremely vulnerable right now."
Maria hit Dominica on Tuesday as a Category Five hurricane, the highest on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale. It was later downgraded to an "extremely dangerous" Category Four, although the US National Hurricane Center warned it could strengthen again.
With officials predicting it would hit the British Virgin Islands on Tuesday or Wednesday, authorities there imposed a curfew from 6:00pm (2200 GMT) on Monday and urged residents to stay indoors until it passed.
More than 100 high-risk prisoners escaped on the islands after a prison breach during Hurricane Irma, prompting London to send Royal Marines and police officers to help restore law and order.
The prisoners have since all been recaptured.
More than 1,300 British troops have been deployed to the region since Irma, and London has also sent food, shelter kits and buckets for clean water.
Another 42 military personnel have been stationed on the British Virgin Islands ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Maria.
The Foreign Office has warned against any travel to the archipelago.
A military reconnaissance team is also on standby to go to neighbouring Montserrat and assess any potential needs if the storm hits there later Tuesday.
In addition to government aid, the British Virgin Islands has received help from a group of sailors from Puerto Rico, who have long been visiting the territory on holiday and wanted to help.
The sailors are among a group of thousands who regularly visit the BVI, dubbed the Puerto Rican Navy.
They have dropped off eight containers of food, water and building supplies, according to a BVI government statement.
"Many people, children, humble people, business people, all came with what they could bring to make sure that people in the BVI were taken care of," organiser Alicia Carazo said in the statement.
Irma, also a Category 5 hurricane, left around 40 people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida, where the death toll stood at 50 Monday.
Dutch troops fail to stop looting after Irma: island leader
"The curfew that was put in place was not controlled, people were looting, soldiers were watching them do it and didn't intervene," William Marlin, prime minister of the Dutch part of the island called Sint Maarten told the NRC daily.
He said he had personally reached an agreement on security arrangements with the local police chief and the head of the Dutch navy even before Irma hit on September 6.
But "something went wrong in the communications," he told the newspaper.
But the commander of the naval forces, Rob Verkerk, shot back that Marlin's comments were "nonsense."
In a message sent on his Twitter account, Verkerk insisted that hundreds of Dutch soldiers deployed on the island had "acted within the limits of what was possible right from the very start."
Irma ravaged the island, divided between France and The Netherlands, levelling some 70 percent of the infrastructure on the Dutch side.
As Dutch officials struggled to get badly needed food and water to residents in the early days, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned troops were under orders to crack down on looters.
But Marlin later in the day denied having given the interview to NRC during a phone call with Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk.
Plasterk told Radio 1 he couldn't comment on the interview, as officials brace for the arrival in the coming hours of Hurricane Maria which has now become a Category 3 storm, and is tracking a similar course to Irma in the Caribbean.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Maria was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles (195 kilometres) per hour.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the French territory of Guadeloupe, which has been the staging area for relief operations for several islands battered by Irma.
Tropical storm warnings are also in place in Antigua and Barbuda, and St Lucia as well as the Dutch islands of Saba and St Eustatius which were both badly hit by Irma. But the latest predictions say Maria could pass about 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of St Martin, sparing the territory the worst of its force.
Philipsburg, Netherlands (AFP) Sept 14, 2017
People on the Dutch side of Saint Martin, the Caribbean island devastated by Hurricane Irma, may be wealthier than their French counterparts, but they face the same desolation and lawlessness in its wake. "Come on in, buddy. There's lots of stuff here, even sunglasses," an islander beckons, helping herself to cosmetics at one of the beachfront duty free stores in the tropical shopping paradi ... read more
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