Sep 12, 2017 News
… police from Britain and France are flown in to restore order
Escaped prisoners and hundreds of looters armed with guns and knives are terrorising hurricane-hit islands amid anarchy in the Caribbean, it has emerged.
Britain and France have both sent extra police resources and the Netherlands have dispatched troops to the region amid reports of lawlessness in the wake of the devastating 185mph storm.
Terrified tourists on the Dutch-French island of St Martin have described cowering in their hotel rooms amid reports up to 600 looters are running riot. One soldier posted on the island said he was ‘stopping a looter every 10 minutes’.
Sam Branson, the son of Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, whose luxury resort in the British Virgin Islands was destroyed in the storm, warned of ‘civil unrest’ and said prisoners had escaped.
Meanwhile, his father called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to help the Caribbean recover from the devastation, a reference to the multibillion-dollar U.S. program that helped rebuild Western European after the devastation of World War Two.
Frightened residents have also complained of looting on the islands of Anguilla, Barbuda and St. Barts after howling 185mph Irma tore through the region.
On St Martin, there are reports of some residents arming themselves with machetes to stop looters amid a crime wave on the island.
Regional police chief Jean-Marc Descoux said some 500-600 local delinquents were probably responsible for most of the looting, taking advantage of the devastation for personal profit.
The storefronts in the centre of Marigot are testament to the paranoid atmosphere gripping the island. Every shop has its metal shutters drawn. Some show signs of being forced open with crowbars.
On one corner, a clothing shop stands open to the elements, its windows smashed in. The mannequins have been stripped of their clothes; the coathangers are bare.
A soldier posted in the Bellevue commercial district to the south revealed he was stopping a looting every ten minutes.
Several people who were stranded on the island said looters had begun raiding hotel rooms and homes to profit from the natural disaster.
Jos Smart, 26, and his girlfriend Julia Taylor, 30, reported being too afraid to leave their ‘half-destroyed’ hotel amid reports of looting and violence outside.
Describing the apocalyptic scenes in St Maarten, Jos Smart’s father Ian said: ‘They have not had any water for a day.
‘They said the sounds were apocalyptic and they have likened it to a war zone. They are holed up in a half-demolished bathroom and their phone is running out of battery. There have been rats in their room looking for food.
He added: ‘At night time there were people knocking on their door, and so there are 12 hours of sheer blackness to get through with the terror of who is going to knock down the door.’
One woman claimed US and British tourists had been attacked after they became stranded.
Troops were called in on Friday to offset the problem.
Meanwhile, a further 50 British police officers were sent to help deal with looting on the British Virgin Islands, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said, as he pledged to be there ‘in the long-term’ for British residents.
Britain has sent a navy ship and almost 500 troops to help people on the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos islands that were pummeled by the hurricane.
Meanwhile Sam Branson, the son of tycoon Richard Branson, released a video message, warning of lawlessness in the area.
He said: ‘I’ve been getting some updates on the ground out there on the British Virgin Islands and it’s really sad to say that there is a lot of civil unrest. Unfortunately some of the prisoners have escaped and are now armed.’
‘It’s really important if you are helping and you are trying to send supply boats out to the area that you go and get information on the ground from official channels and ideally you have some security on the boats
‘I don’t want to panic anyone but it’s really important people are aware of the situation there. Some areas are okay, some aren’t. Just get the right information. It’s just incredibly tragic.’
Elsewhere, France, which oversees neighbouring Saint Barthelemy and the other half of St Martin, said the police presence on the two islands had been boosted to close to 500.
The French interior ministry said 11 people suspected of ‘malicious actions’ had been arrested since Friday as television footage showed scenes of chaos on the islands, with streets under water, boats and cars tossed into piles and torn rooftops.
Massimiliano Napoliello, the manager of a bar in Maho Beach, issued a desperate plea for help on Facebook.
‘The situation in SXM is a HELL! NO WATER NO FOOD NO ELECTRICITY NO COMMUNICATION!!
‘They are completely isolated and there are CRIMINALS carrying GUNS AND KNIVES SHOOTING and looting all over!! NOTHING IS WORKING, THERE ARE NO RULES, THERE IS NO LAW AND NO PROTECTION RIGHT NOW!!’ he said.
At the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina, looters went in to unoccupied rooms to steal TVs, one staff member said on Twitter.
‘A small minority of sxm-er’s were looting our unoccupied rooms until the Dutch military arrived. Not essentials – taking TV’s,’ he said.
The same man said a bank was robbed the next day.
Laura Conroy’s family was stranded on the island and is now awaiting rescue from US military planes. They are taking American citizens to the more developed Puerto Rico.
She said that through the intermittent contact she has had with her sister, she learned that looting was a problem. ‘Many US citizens are being attacked and robbed,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned the situation was already ‘serious’ and made worse by communication problems after 185mph Irma laid waste to infrastructure.
Witnesses on the Dutch side of the island say people are roaming the streets armed with ‘revolvers and machetes’ while Rutte said most people are surviving without power and running water.
Extra troops and police are arriving on the southern part of the island, which is shared between France and the Netherlands, and part of their job is to help keep order, officials said.
Up to 95 per cent of the island was destroyed as the hurricane pummeled its shores on Wednesday.
The badly damaged airport and port have now ‘been opened for military purposes,’ Rutte told reporters, adding ‘we are doing everything possible to get aid to the area.’
He said food, water and security were the priorities on the island, known in Dutch as Sint Maarten.
‘We will not abandon Sint Maarten,’ he said, adding that officials were also sending medicines, tents, tarpaulins and hygiene kits as fast as possible to the Caribbean.
‘The military has two tasks after arriving there. Firstly to ensure that there is food and water, but also to ensure security,’ Rutte said.
‘There are people on the streets armed with revolvers and machetes,’ one witness told the Dutch newspaper AD on Friday. ‘The situation is very serious. No one is in charge.’
Dutch officials have confirmed that one person was killed on the Dutch part of Saint Martin by the Category Five storm, before it was downgraded early Friday to a four as it barrelled towards Cuba and Florida.
At least 10 people were killed on Cuba, most of them crushed by collapsing buildings, bringing the death toll to 38 in the Caribbean.
St Martin, which shares an island with the French territory of St. Martin, has been autonomous since 2010, but remains part of the Dutch commonwealth.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte says that most people are surviving on the island without the basic necessities of life.
Power, running water and most communications were knocked out by the powerful storm and looting has been reported by local authorities struggling to keep control of the island.
He said the first plane already has landed at the airport in the capital, Philipsburg, and navy vessels have unloaded vital supplies in a race against time before the next storm arrives.
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