POINTE BLANCHE–Two garbage trucks courtesy of the Dutch Government are already hard at work in the districts. The trucks arrived on Sunday afternoon aboard the ship Aniek from Curaçao after they were flown across the Atlantic Ocean to that island.
The trucks are part of the Dutch Government’s Civil Mission’s efforts to aid in St. Maarten’s recovery after the devastation of monster Hurricane Irma.
Civil mission head Erwin Arkenbout presented the keys for the trucks to Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Minister Christophe Emmanuel. The trucks are “on loan” from the Netherlands for as long as they are needed and at no cost to the local Government.
Emmanuel had requested garbage trucks to replace broken or damaged ones. He in turn presented the keys for the trucks to representatives of Meadowlands N.V., one of the garbage haulers, to start with much-needed garbage collection.
Emmanuel told The Daily Herald he was appreciative of and thankful for the support of the Netherlands. He added that the equipment “shows the commitment” as well as “concern” of the Dutch Government and people for St. Maarten.
“We can’t do this alone,” he said, adding that this fact is recognised on both sides of the ocean.
More heavy equipment and materials vital for rebooting the country after the devastation of monster Hurricane Irma were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Joint Logistic Support Ship His Majesty Karel Doorman.
The civil mission was put together after Irma with the purpose to help the Government and people of St. Maarten, Arkenbout told this newspaper. “We explained [to government – Ed.] what we are here to do and who we are here with,” he said. The civil mission’s assistance was formally offered to Government in a recent meeting and was accepted.
“Our only mission is to help the population of St. Maarten,” Arkenbout said.
Head of the Dutch Representation in St. Maarten Chris Johnson added that it was “very important” for the mission representatives to meet with Government and formally present the mission’s purpose. “We have a statute and Constitution. There is a chain of command to follow,” he said.
“There is a lot to do. We are still in the emergency phase and in a few weeks we will be in the recovery phase,” Arkenbout said.
The civil mission has some 10 experts in various fields running assessment of the country’s most critical needs, spanning communication, crisis management, infrastructure with specific attention to the Port and the Airport, public housing, and waste management.
Government has identified recovery priorities to the mission as housing; schools; water distribution; Airport and Air Traffic Control and Meteorological facilities; hospital; waste management; social safety net; public order, including the prison; Tax Administration; and infrastructure, sports and art facilities.
The needs of the country can be discerned from reports and photographs, but the vantage point is “better on the ground,” Arkenbout said. As a former St. Maarten resident, he said, “I was terrified by what I saw” on arriving here.
As the kingdom, “We are all in the same boat together, so help was offered” to St. Maarten from The Hague, he said.
The trucks were not the civil mission’s first efforts here. Ahead of Hurricane Maria, drinking water and food were purchased in Curaçao and delivered here for distribution. A reverse osmosis plant is already in the country and will be turned on as soon as its housing is off-loaded from Karel Doorman and set up.
A total of 75 tarpaulins were sent to St. Eustatius also ahead of Maria.
A crisis team in The Hague is also bolstering the civil mission’s efforts. That team is working with international agencies to ensure aid coming to the country “makes sense,” he said.