Dutch islands ravaged by Hurricane Irma
On Wednesday, Hurricane Irma swept through the islands Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, which are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean.
Run up to the chaos
On Tuesday 5 September, Irma was given grade five hurricane status. This is the highest category a storm can reach on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale and entails winds of more than 251 kilometres per hour.
It is around this time that the American National Hurricane Center announced that a second storm, Hurricane Jose may follow and reach the Caribbean area on Saturday. Meanwhile, meteorologists are calling Irma the most powerful storm they have ever measured in the Atlantic.
On Wednesday morning, 6 September, Irma hit Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius with full force and wind speeds of 295 kilometres per hour. Around midday, the storm broke the previous 1980 record by storm Allen regarding the amount of accumulated cyclone energy in 24 hours.
The passing of Hurricane Irma has left the islands in ruins, with Sint Maarten sustaining the most damage. Cars and houses were swept away through the flooded streets, trees fell, buildings blew away and the Sint Maarten airport was completely destroyed.
Currently, there is no power or running water on Sint Maarten. The victims of the storm need food, however, the supermarkets are empty and the island is difficult to access as the airport is severely damaged and the harbour is not easily reachable.
The death toll, previously at six, rose to eight, with another 23 wounded on the French part of Sint Maarten on Thursday, 7 September. The number of fatalities on Sint Eustatius is unknown. The storm passed Saba without reported casualties. The number of deaths is expected to rise.
Assistance for islanders
Military and defense personnel have been deployed to assess the damages of the islands and provide assistance. In addition to the military action, two ships have been sent to provide help. The ships contain lorries, water tank vehicles, a military ambulance, a bulldozer, boats and patrol cars.
Reaching Sint Maarten by air is at the top of the list of priorities, according to Minister Plasterk from the Ministry of the Interior & Kingdom Relations. In order to do so, they must clear some of the debris from the airport.
In order to help the victims of Hurricane Irma, the Red Cross has started to raise funds, donations can be made through their website (in Dutch). They have also put their “I am safe” website online, so that those affected by the storm can let others know that they are safe.
Waiting for the second hurricane
The ordeal is not over for the locals of the three islands. Whilst addressing the damages caused by Hurricane Irma, the Dutch islands need to prepare themselves for Hurricane Jose, which is likely to hit Sint Maarten on Saturday. Hurricane Jose is not as powerful as Irma; however, it can still cause a great deal of damage, as many buildings are now unstable.
On Wednesday night, tropical storm Katia also strengthened into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first time since 2010 that three hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic.
The Dutch islands are not the only ones affected by Hurricane Irma, the storm's path of destruction includes the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, amongst others.