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A Community Approach Towards Healing After Hurricane Irma

PHILIPBURG— Community connectedness, collaboration and the creation of safe spaces are some additional elements needed to bounce back collectively from the psychological, material, environmental and financial wounds caused by Hurricane Irma which descended on the island on September 6, 2017, according to The St. Maarten Foundation For Psychologists & “Orthopedagogen” (SFPO).

SFPO officials said on Thursday, October 5, 2017, that the pain and stress experienced as a result of the hurricane is being experienced both on the individual and community level. 

Healing and rebuilding therefore can be brought about via the provision of psychological support to the individual, as mentioned by colleagues of the Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals (APAP SXM) but also through the coming together of people within districts in practical ways.

For example, two days after the passing of the storm, young men of a particular district were observed drawing water from the district well and filling the buckets of women, children and the elderly. 

This simple act led to the ‘recreation’ of the old society during which individuals were intertwined with the whole community, whereby one person’s pain was felt by the entire community, and whereby community solutions were sought to assist the individual member.

SFPO officials believe that the process of collective healing and rebuilding can be facilitated and supported within existing safe spaces such as the (extended) family, the district and the church community. This process of healing and rebuilding has already started within various districts whereby neighbors have come together to organize clean- ups and also the provision of necessary supplies to fellow neighbors through the conducting of home visits.   

Creating a caring and safe environment within the family and even within the churches, whereby children and adults can, for example, tell their stories if they so desire, can be viewed as a form of collective healing, SFPO said. “People need to make sense of the disruptive event. At the same time, through story- telling, the focus should not only be on experienced emotions, but also on instances of resistance (how we hid during the storm), heroism (how we saved the neighbor) and compassion (how our neighbor offered us shelter).

SFPO officials concluded by saying that “the passing of the storm could be seen as a reminder that the building of strong, supportive and caring communities helps to create self- worth and self- fulfillment, lessons taught to us by the elders”. However, the longer we manage to hold on to this sharing and caring community, which was recreated as a result of disaster, the better it would be for the collective healing and rebuilding of this great nation.

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Delta, Seaborne, PAWA, Insel Air, Winair to resume service on October 10

POND ISLAND - Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison on Thursday said that discussions with all airlines pertaining to resumption of service to the island is ongoing with some already indicating that service will resume as soon as the airport is open on October 10.

He said Delta Airlines, Seaborne, Pawa Dominicana, Insel Air, Winair have all indicated that they will resume service per October 10, with Seaborne code sharing with American Airlines, JetBlue and Delta. Other airlines, he said, will more than likely announce their service over the next few days.

As for those airlines that had already announced that they have cancelled service for a few months, Brison noted that discussions with these airlines will continue and could possibly result in a different approach from these airlines.

Brison acknowledged that some airlines have rescheduled their service to the island after the storm but re-iterated that airlines suspending service to a destination after a natural disaster is expected, especially when the hotel inventory of the destination is very low.  However, he explained: “This doesn’t mean that we cannot engage with the airlines

Considering the level of destruction to St. Maarten’s hotel properties, the airport and overall infrastructure, Brison said, airlines will always consider the level of their service. What’s important, he stressed, is to maintain open lines of communication with airline partners and maintain a balance of current airlift.

“Flights will always be directly proportional to the number of rooms a destination has, so some airlines cutting back for the time being is totally to be expected,” Brison said. What is important for us is to maintain a sufficient balance of airlift to supply the now reduced number of hotel rooms we have available. Based on our discussions so far, once the country is ready to accept commercial airlift.

“We actually have a higher amount of interest in flights versus the amount of room inventory, though some of this is to support the hub function that SXM Airport will continue to retain for the surrounding islands,” he added.

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SHTA submits Economic Recovery Recommendations. Emphasis placed on business continuity

PHILIPSBURG - The Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) has sent in a first broad advice for economic recovery of country Sint Maarten. The association was requested to share its ideas for country Sint Maarten’s future by the Workgroup National Recovery Plan led by Joan Dovale. Its first recommendations were drafted based on many talks with its member companies from Hospitality and Trade sectors.

First and foremost, the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) very much regrets the loss of human life and injuries caused by the hurricane and expresses deeply felt sympathy to the families of victims, as well as the tremendous damage done to Sint Maarten society at large, where no one has been left untouched. For a long time, the mantra of SHTA has been “Make St. Maarten A Great Place to Live and It will be a Great Place to Visit”. In other words, building a great tourism destination can only go hand in hand with building a great society for all.

This is why the association’s advice starts with recommendations guarding the welfare of the Sint Maarten society, as well as safeguarding its natural beauty and environment, both prerequisites in these dire times to enabling the economy at large to rebuild. According to many of its member businesses, ongoing provision of security to society is a key threshold for successful recovery.

Most of the recommendations SHTA is putting forward is to ensure business continuity. As first assessments show, many enterprises, as well as large and small tourism properties have been heavily damaged and will need months, some even years, to recover.

Economic relief, to be shared equitably over the entire business community and directed towards economic growth, can for example be established by employee payment assistance from government and tax relief where possible. The association further underlines the importance of a strong, well defined positioning of the Sint Maarten destination for a successful comeback; leveraging quick to rebound sectors like yachting and cruise that do not rely as heavily on our infrastructure as stay-over tourism.

As the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association represents many sectors like wholesale, marine, shipping, retail as well as the hospitality industry. Next to societal and economic advice, SHTA underlines the importance of infrastructure improvement in a third and last chapter of recommendations.  Construction and recovery work will further strain the already congested Sint Maarten traffic, and the association posed various solutions to cope with this.

The recovery recommendations follow efforts of SHTA to get international aid in for country Sint Maarten. As it became clear that hurricane Irma posed a clear threat for country Sint Maarten, some board members of SHTA were coincidentally on leave in Europe. While the hurricane made its way, this committee convened in Paris to directly start organizing relief aid as of September 7th.  The committee succeeded in coordinating the first non-military relief flight into the island as well assisting with many evacuations.

Most notably, SHTA wants to thank the rapid action of Samaritan’s Purse, LIFT, Airlink, Rescue Global, ADRA, Rise Against Hunger and Water Solutions Management among many many others for providing badly needed medical supplies, desalinization plants, food and water, tarps and various other goods in the immediate aftermath. Nearly all aid flights in took passengers out, and airlines like Sunwing, Jet Blue and Delta brought in by STB and SHTA made many trips solely for evacuations. Together relief flights evacuated approximately 10,000 visitors, students and residents.

More importantly, SHTA could not have been able to receive or distribute many of goods on the ground in the early days after Irma without the assistance of the  Ministry of TEATT; the VKS and the many member volunteers at its disposal. SHTA wants to further commend the Royal Dutch Marines, the Royal Marechaussee and KPSM for their efforts in safeguarding our community and assisting the relief goods to get to their destination.

In its recommendations, SHTA sees cooperation with the government and NGOs as a best practice for public-private teamwork, and underlines the need for maintaining and expanding this for the full recovery of Sint Maarten. The association looks to constructively cooperate with all committees involved in rebuilding Sint Maarten. The association asks membership to send in suggestions for speedy economic recovery to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., enabling the association to further expand its advice in a second edition.

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Police arrests eight persons during seven house searches related to looting

PHILIPSBURG – Eight (8) persons were arrested on Wednesday October 4th during at least seven house searches at different locations on the Dutch side of the island that were executed by members of KPSM (Sint Maarten Police Force) assisted by the police forces from Curacao and the Netherlands, the Royal Marechaussee, VKC, VKS and Customs Department.

During these searches three fire-arms, illegal drugs and a large amount of electrical equipment and food stuff were found and confiscated. All eight suspects remain in custody for further investigation. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

raids 04 okt. 2017 3 inside one

raids 04 okt. 2017 2 inside two

raids 04 okt. 2017 1 inside three

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Minister Arrindell-Doncher: Airport re-opens on October 10

POND ISLAND - Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Wednesday announced that Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA/SXM Airport) will open to accept all commercial flights as per October 10, 2017. “We will be back in business,” the Minister said. The symbolism of the date was also important to the Minister, marking seven years since St. Maarten obtained its new constitutional status.

The airport, the Minister explained, was given time following hurricane Irma and Maria to get back to a suitable operational level that falls within international safety standards. She re-iterated that the damage to PJIA was severe and no quick fix could have been applied. “Even as we open our airport, we are still months away from restoring PJIA to its former glory,” she said.

However, the Minister continued, “acting CEO of PJIA Michel Hyman assisted by Head of the Civil Aviation Department Lou Halley and his team, has done a terrific job in getting the airport to a point where we can open for business. I cannot praise these folks and their resilience enough in getting PJIA back up and running. Thank you.”

The Minister explained that while the airport is opening, there will be some changes in terms of passenger movement and security within the terminal building to allow for repairs to the building to continue. She said Hyman and airport management will ensure that passengers are in a safe environment at all times. “There might be some inconvenience here and there, but we only ask a little patience as we work to get back to 100%,” the Minister said.

She added that all airlines will issue information regarding their resumption of service via their respective outlets and agents. “We are in discussion with all of the airlines about resumption of service to St. Maarten. St. Maarten as a destination has been hit hard and the road to recovery is long, but we still do have some hotel inventory that can be serviced and we still want potential investors here. Basically, the message we want to send to the world is we are resilient, we are open for business and we look forward to welcoming you back.”  

Minister Arrindell-Doncher also extended thanks to the personnel of PJIA and other contracted workers who have diligently been working to restore the airport to operational status as well as the Immigration and Customs Department. She thanked all airport handlers, airlines, commercial, charter and military, that came to St. Maarten’s aid by transporting relief supplies while the airport was closed.  

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Police addresses looter incident. Witnesses and Officers being Questioned

PHILIPSBURG - Police Chief Carl John and his management team are addressing a video-clip which is circulating on social media regarding the use of excessive force by police officers on Sint Maarten.

The Police Chief and management are stating that they are well aware of this video. An internal investigation into this incident has been launched.

All police officers involved and witnesses of this incident are being interviewed and all documents regarding this investigation will be sent to the Public Prosecutor for review. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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British RFA Mounts Bay Landing Ship Dock in Port for Transfer of Hurricane Relief Goods and Equipment

PORT ST. MAARTEN – The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay L3008, one of three Landing Ship Docks (LSD), arrived on Monday morning at Port St. Maarten to pick up two fire trucks and seven containers of hurricane relief goods.  The aforementioned along with fuel was transferred from the HNLMS Karel Doorman A-833 to RFA Mounts Bay.

RFA Mounts Bay was docked at Cruise Pier Northwest where the Royal Netherlands Navy’s biggest ship, the HNLMS Karel Doorman A-833, a Joint Support Ship (JSS), brought in disaster relief supplies along with a number of vehicles for the emergency phase of post Hurricane Irma/Maria on Sunday from the Netherlands.

Port St. Maarten is operational.  Port Management said on Tuesday that the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facilities are playing a vital role acting as a logistical hub for disaster and humanitarian relief for hurricane stricken islands in the North and North-Eastern Caribbean.

In addition, Port St. Maarten Management added, “We can simply maintain that Port St. Maarten is operational with some constraints, but repairs are steadily taking place, and we are on our way to be back at full operational capacity within the shortest time.

“Even with the constraints, Port St. Maarten has been able to maintain its hub function even with the adversity post Irma and Maria ensuring that relief supplies not only for Country St. Maarten but the neighboring islands are efficiently and optimally being handled through the Ports solid infrastructure.”

The United Kingdom’s military response to providing vital humanitarian aid and supplies to the Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma is code-named ‘Operation Ruman.’  The next port of call for RFA Mounts Bay will be the British Virgin Islands.

RFA Mounts Bay was built by BAE (Naval Ships) at Govan on the River Clyde.  The vessel was launched by Lady Band in April 2004 and was accepted into service in July 2006 following extensive sea trials.  The vessel is 176 meters long; has a range of 8,000 nautical miles at a speed of 18 knots;

The HNLMS Karel Doorman arrived in port with the single largest consignment of relief goods Post-Hurricane Irma comprising of goods with a total weight of over one million kilos and valued at an estimated one million Euros.

The Karel Doorman with a length of 204.7 meters, is a multi-functional logistical support vessel for amphibious operations that can be deployed to supply units at sea, for strategic sea transport, and for logistical support from the sea, with the ship acting as a seaborne base for implementing and supporting land operations.

The French Amphibious Assault Helicopter Carrier Tonnerre ‘Thunder’ L9014, recently docked at Port St. Maarten to offload relief supplies for the north side of the island, St. Martin.  Thunder is the second ship in the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship series.  The vessel was launched in July 2005 and began active service in December 2006.

Thunder has a length of 199 meters; a range of 6,700 miles at 18.8 knots or 12,300 miles at 15 knots.

Port St. Maarten Management would like to reiterate that the Captain David Cargo Quay is open for relief aid and supplies, but also building supplies and commercial cargo which are essential to the rebuilding effort.

For the importation of goods, Port St. Maarten’s Management advises private consignees to follow-up with their usual cargo agents to regulate the aforementioned.

U.S. cargo to be sent to the island as normal are to be shipped via Tropical Shipping, King Ocean and Seaboard Marine Line.

European cargo bound for country Sint Maarten normally is shipped via CMA-CGM and Seatrade StreamLines, and arrangements should be made via those companies with their respective local agencies.

RFA Mounts Bay

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SCDF: Housing people in Village is a health disaster waiting to happen

POND ISLAND - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has warned that housing people in the Festival Village is a humanitarian and health disaster waiting to happen. The board of the foundation issued its warning following comments made by at least two Ministers (Marlin and Lee) that the village was being considered for housing.

The board of the foundation stressed that its concern has nothing to do with Carnival itself, but what it knows to be the realities of the Festival Village. The facility, the board said, is especially hazardous for children and their susceptibility to catch insect bound diseases. The board said it truly sympathizes with persons who have lost homes, including some of its own members, but it cannot imagine people living in the Village for any length of time. 

“The venue is now located not far from two landfills, mice and mosquitos will be a serious problem, other insects such as centipedes as well, there are no showers, the bathrooms are unreliable, it floods with pond water at any prolonged periods of rain and water enters the booths easily through its lone window, on very hot days its sweltering, and so on,” the foundation said. 

“During the period of Carnival, keeping the village bug free, sanitized and fumigated and managing flood-proned areas in the facility is the second costliest budget item for the SCDF. We prepare that Village for three weeks of sanitary usage. Putting people in there, children in particular, is asking for a humanitarian and health problem to the highest degree. It is not a responsible location to put people who might have lost so much already,” the board.

The foundation hopes that the Council of Minister re-thinks this option for emergency housing.

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Sint Maarten Bouncing Back Quickly. The first mega yacht has returned

SIMPSON BAY - The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) is pleased to report that the first mega yacht has returned to St. Maarten, leading the way for what we hope to be a recovery of the yachting sector.

Motor Yacht Orinokia, a Benetti Classic 120, passed through the Simpson Bay Bridge on Saturday morning and docked at its berth at Yacht Club Port de Plaisance. Orinokia had recently taken shelter in St. Lucia but decided to return to St. Maarten as soon as it was safe to do so.

Captain Simon Uzcategui said that both the yacht owner and crew wanted to return to St. Maarten as quickly as possible to express their support and commitment to destination St. Maarten, which is their primary Caribbean base.

General maintenance issues that the yacht needs to tend to are best carried out by local St. Maarten companies such as Electec, The Wired Sailor and Necol, that offer better quality services than other destinations in the region, even considering the damage they themselves suffered from the hurricane, added Captain Uzcategui. Orinokia is also expected to re-fuel and re-provision, helping those businesses get back on their feet in these difficult times.

The staff at the Yacht Club at Port de Plaisance as well as the SLAC bridge tenders have been hard at work in recent days to clear up a path to allow Orinokia to reenter the marina. Jesse Peterson, General Manager of the marina and vice president of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association said that cleanup and repair operations are continuing and that the marina expects to be open for business and welcoming visiting yachts in early November.

As in the past, the yachting sector is showing its resilience and its contribution as a major pillar of the economy of St. Maarten, both in bringing in needed revenue from abroad, and in providing employment opportunities to many St. Maarten residents.

Reports from elsewhere in the world, including the recently concluded Monaco Yacht Show, are that there is great interest among yacht owners and crew to return to the Caribbean region they love to show their support to the people.

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UPDATE: Existing buildings with a permit can rebuild based on the issued building permit

POND ISLAND - The Ministry of VROMI (Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, Infrastructure Management) would like to clarify the post hurricane rebuilding activities which will not require a permit.

Any rebuilding works according to the drawings of the already approved building permit requires no new building permit.

For example, a house that was issued a building permit in 2001 which has lost its roof, can rebuild the roof according to the building permit drawings previously approved by VROMI.

Any extensions, add-ons or changes to a building that VROMI did not previously approve will require a permit. For example, a house that was issued a permit in 2013 with a zink roof, will be required to submit a request for the change to a concrete roof.

The drawings will then be checked for safety and subsequently approved by VROMI within a short period of time.

Only property owners who are planning to erect new buildings, make changes to existing approved buildings are requested to report to the Ministry of VROMI Inspection/Permits Department in the New Government Building on the Pond Island and fill out a building permit request form on Monday through Friday, 8:30AM to 4PM.

For questions about this subject, persons can also contact the ministry’s hotline at 5206573.

 

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