De Weever: It’s no longer a crisis, it’s a disaster

POSTED: 10/17/13 9:55 AM
de weever at fire 2
Minister De Weever, with hands on hips tries to assess the damage of the early morning blaze while listening to what two of the affected had to say. Photo Today/Milton Pieters

St. Maarten / By Milton G. Pieters – Four days after the raging fire that swept through the shanty town behind Carl’s Unique Inn in Cole Bay, the now displaced residents, most who have lost all their belongings, will have to depend on assistance from the Red Cross, charitable organizations, government and individuals.

In the weekly press briefing yesterday, Minister de Weever commented on the dire situation of those that were affected by the early morning blaze which has left over 100 people homeless.

Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson touched briefly on the situation when he stated that a special task force will be set up to ensure that ‘shanty towns’ on the island will be a thing of the past.

On Tuesday, a high level delegation including staff from the Ministry of Health, the Red Cross, the Fire Department and the Police paid a visit to the site. While the objective is to get help for the affected residents, the status of the victims is also being addressed.

“We have been busy  registering those who are employed and those who are legal as well as those who are undocumented, employed and unemployed, women and children. Our first estimation was over 100, but we are yet to arrive at a final figure,” Minister de Weever said.

As a direct result of the fire, the displaced has been forced to seek shelter at nearby homes in the immediate vicinity, relatives and friends but the kids had the first priority. According to De Weever, the Red Cross is responsible for coordinating and handing out whatever the various donor agencies and individuals has donated.

So far, Western Union/DHL and the Tzu Chi Foundation has come forward and offered assistance, but this situation calls for a consorted effort from the community. “Many persons have lost all of their documents, but we will work with the census office to have those reports verified along with the staff from labor affairs and legal affairs,” De Weever added.

A short video clip of the visit to the scene of the fire was viewed by those present during the press briefing. Minister de Weever pointed out that the prevailing situation could no longer be described as a crisis. “In a situation like this, we have to see this as a disaster and we need to treat those affected by the devastation the same way we would treat persons affected during a hurricane. This is about disaster management,” he pointed out.

However, Minister de Weever could not refrain from commenting on what transpired 18 years ago after hurricane Luis caused havoc on St Maarten. “We now have to look at what can be done and what has to be done.  Minister Lake stated that in five days, the place will be cleaned up and the government is putting a special task force together to ensure that no more shanty towns will be constructed on the island.”

That new development will have a domino effect on several of the affected residents who will now have to seek, a new place of abode, new furniture, new clothes and in essence, build back the house hold from scratch with the help of others.

De Weever paid another visit to the site shortly after the press briefing yesterday and while he took another opportunity to survey the damage, his mere presence must have offered a degree of re assurance for those that have been affected.

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