Luis created havoc on September 5, 1995 – An anniversary to remember

POSTED: 09/5/12 10:47 AM

St. Maarten -It was 17 years ago that category five Hurricane Luis wrecked havoc on St. Maarten but the memories are still fresh in the minds of many of the country’s residents. It is those memories that have been captured on film and produced in photographs to tell the tale of how tiny St. Maarten was devastated by turbulent wind and rains and how the resilient nation bounced back. They say that a picture tells a thousand words and the picture tells the story; the St. Maarten Museum located in Philipsburg has mounted a pictorial exhibition reminding us of how far we have come from and what Luis left in its wake.

The exhibition can be seen daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and according to Dieudonnee Ostiana of the St. Maarten National Heritage Foundation everyone is being urged to view a unique part of our history through photos as well as watch a video on the rebuilding efforts. It is all being done to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Luis.
There is no doubt that Luis was a violent hurricane and according to eyewitness accounts St. Maarten was not spared its wrath.

Former civil defense and army officer in the Guyana Defense Force, Desmond Forde had relocated from South America to St. Maarten. He explained that the experience of Luis is forever etched in his memory.
“It was a violent hurricane which destroyed Food Centre and Carib Lumber. At that time the residential area of Ebenezer was destroyed. Houses were leveled and supermarkets were crushed.”
Containers could also be seen on the streets while yachts and smaller marine vessels ran aground.
One St.Peters resident said that he could not save his possessions but just his family’s life.
“I was living in South Reward hill and our roof was ripped off. But we were prepared and just ran into the basement. GEBE was affected and the big ball on top of the transmitter on St. Peters hill came off because of the force of the winds. It was later found all the way in Anguilla.”
Forde said that he was trained in disaster preparation and management but no one could prepare for the monster that became Luis.
“Because so many people lost their homes the government distributed blue tents which eventually led to many tent cities being developed.”
He is optimistic that St. Maarten will never have face nature’s wrath again but said that with each hurricane season people can never be too cautious with preparations.

Jean Lindor is far from hopeful. He supports the Office of Disaster Management’s theme for hurricane season 2012 that it just takes one, so don’t wait until it’s too late.
“I am from Haiti and when I left there I thought I was in paradise. No mudslide, no earthquake, no problem. But the storm came and destroyed the whole community in Cay Hill. It was chaos.”
Indeed shanty towns that sprung in Cay Hill and St. Peters were flattened but the newly developed residential area of Ebenezer was also affected. The Simpson Bay and Cul-de-Sac basins were not spared either.
The total body count in the wake of Luis was recorded at 18 but suspicion was rife that the number of dead may have been more than that.

Local businessman Patrick Romney said that Luis also brought peace among the people. Everyone was on the same level and was treated equally by the rescue teams that came in from Holland, the then Netherlands Antilles and other neighboring islands to lend assistance.
“People were living so friendly on the island and we all joined together to clean up. You had Antilleans, Haitians, Domincanos and more; everyone helped, there was no segregation.”
It took between 3 and 6 months to clear all the debris while enduring the stench of garbage, rotten meat and produce. There was also widespread looting at stores such as Benetton on Front Street, Cake House and Food Centre.
In St. Maarten today, the year 1995 will forever be synonymous with Hurricane L

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Luis created havoc on September 5, 1995 - An anniversary to remember by

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