St. Maarten, September 5, 2017
My fellow St. Maarteners,
Residents and Visitors of our beautiful island,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today is exactly 22 years ago when Hurricane Luis struck St. Maarten and left a trail of destruction in its wake. Normally, on a day like this, we would be looking back and reflecting on how that incredible storm changed our lives.
But today is not a normal day. In a matter of hours, we are expecting another monster storm, Hurricane Irma, to come calling. While the lessons we learned from Luis may give us some measure of comfort to face the dangers Irma poses, I want to assure each and every one of you that the most important thing we must safeguard is life itself.
By now, you should have completed all the necessary preparations, including taking care of your pets. Irma is a very serious hurricane which could strengthen into a Category 5 storm.
All the comparisons with Luis may pale given Irma’s current trajectory and the prevailing weather conditions.
The true character of a people is revealed in how they face disaster and confront adversity.
We have been down this road before and showed the world that we are a resilient people who despite our differences, come together in moments like this to overcome any challenge that may test our resolve.
I call on you today to once more show what we are made of as a people.
We need to look out for our family members, our friends and neighbors, not AFTER the passage of the storm, but even before it passes through here.
Those of you who think your homes may not be safe enough should immediately seek shelter with family, friends, or neighbors until the storm is over.
Invite someone you know who may need a safe place to stay to ride out the storm with you. Now more than ever before, we must show that we are indeed our brothers and sisters keepers.
In the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) we have decided to open seven hurricane shelters as of 4 o’clock
I know this has generated some controversy. However, this is not the time to debate if the decision is a good one or not.
We are hours away from a possible direct hit by a very powerful storm. Our focus now should therefore be on staying alive and securing our properties as best as we can.
The shelters that will open as of 4 pm are as follows:
New Testament Baptist Church in Philipsburg
Sister Marie-Laurence Primary School in Middle Region
Belvedere Community Center in Belvedere
Dutch Quarter Community Center in Dutch Quarter
Rupert I Maynard Youth Community Center St. Peters
NIPA National Institute for Professional Advancement Cay Hill
Christian Fellowship Church Across from Pineapple Pete’s Cole Bay
A curfew will go into effect as from 6:00 PM today. It is mandatory to stay indoors until it has been lifted.
I cannot stress enough how necessary it is to obey the curfew. It is for your own safety and the safety of others.
The curfew will be lifted as soon as conditions permit, that is after the hurricane has passed and the relevant government agencies have completed the damage assessment.
The EOC will meet again on Thursday at 9:00AM to evaluate the situation and decide on the curfew.
Nobody, I repeat, nobody should be on the road during the curfew. I am appealing to all of you not to go out on disaster tourism, trying to see for yourself what is happening outside, but to obey instructions from the respective government agencies charged with handling this emergency situation.
A company of some 100 Dutch marines have been mobilized to assist our Police, Fire Department, Ambulance, Public Works, and other first responders.
Government offices are closed from today, Tuesday, September 5th until further notice. However, Emergency services will continue to operate as normal. Should you require any emergency service during this period, you are advised to call 911. Hopefully, this will not be necessary.
With regards to business closure, it is mandatory that ALL businesses, including casinos, whether stand alone or those in hotels, close at 12:00PM today. This means that they should have already been closed two hours ago.
Supermarkets, hardware stores, restaurants, pharmacies, gas stations and bakeries are allowed to remain open until 3:00PM today. Only restaurants on hotel properties are allowed to remain open after 3:00PM. Hotels are advised to make the necessary arrangements for essential staff to remain on property.
Government has done all that it can to prepare for this hurricane. I hope that you have done the same as well. The Pond has been drained to minimize potential flooding of the Philipsburg area. Don’t be alarmed if you see or smell some dead fish as a result of this.
Many of you may not have experienced a hurricane before. It is never a good experience. I urge you to be as calm as possible.
It is also very important that you refrain from rumor-mongering and disseminating fake news. Stay tuned to the radio stations, especially the government radio station – 107.9 FM –for accurate information and official announcements.
Rumors or any other form of misinformation can cause as much damage as the hurricane itself. So, please do not share news from unreliable and unofficial sources on social media, no matter how tempting this may be.
Fellow St. Maarteners, residents and visitors of our beloved island, as we brace ourselves for this powerful hurricane, I join those of you who have begun praying in asking our good Lord to have mercy on our island and deliver us from this imminent danger.
I pray that the same God who spoke to the storm to calm it down will do the same to Hurricane Irma.
Be strong. Be courageous. And above all, be safe. We are in this together and together, by the grace of God, we shall overcome. As they say, this, too, shall pass.
God be with all of us.
I thank you.