Disaster tourism

POSTED: 08/12/15 3:57 PM

In Alphen aan den Rijn, the town where former Kingdom Relations Minister Liesbeth Spies is the mayor, two large cranes toppled in the center of town this week and fell on nearby buildings. The chaos is enormous, though miraculously, nobody got hurt during this accident.

Spies is now complaining about disaster tourism. People come from all over to Alphen to take a look at the havoc created by the two cranes. They trample the gardens of affected buildings, and they ignore signs that tell them not to cross the line. Those disaster tourists are taking pictures, so that they can tell the people back home something they already know. They probably have already seen better pictures of the disaster as well and – one would think – they have in the meantime moved on to doing more useful things with their lives.

Yesterday afternoon St. Maarten experienced its own brand of disaster tourism when bandits shot police officer Jamely Benjamin on Front Street.

Shortly after the shots were fired, Front Street was black with people (no pun intended) and police officers had quite a job to keep curious onlookers away from what was no longer a shopping street but a crime scene.

At one point shortly after the shooting, we saw a small crowd surrounding the place where the officer lay in a pool of blood on the street. Tourists lifted their cell phones over the heads of others to snap a picture before continuing on their way during another happy holiday.

We also witnessed people with a more sensible approach to a very bad situation: they ran away as fast as their legs would carry them. Some politicians and staff members who had just left the building after yesterday morning’s meeting, stormed back into the building to get out of harm’s way. A wise move, because the shooter was moving from Front Street past the parliament building in the direction of Cannegieter Street.

Before long, the police had cordoned off the entire vicinity from Front Street up to Cannegieter Street near the RBC bank. And we’ve got to say, after the first horde of local disaster tourists had left the scene, others simply abided by the instructions of police officers and detectives to stay clear of the crime scene. In that sense, we’re doing better than Alphen aan den Rijn – or, to be entirely accurate – better than the disaster tourists who chose that city as their source of entertainment.

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