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Another devastating hurricane howls in from the sea

September 20, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The eastern US and Caribbean are facing an alarming series of massively disruptive hurricanes, with the latest, Hurricane Maria, now slamming into ports and cities devastated by Hurricane Irma just a week or two ago.

DFAT, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, put out advisories yesterday as US meteorological authorities forecast Hurricane Maria was set to become a “dangerous major hurricane” by the time it neared the US Virgin Islands and the US territory of Puerto Rico.

It hit the island nation of Dominica yesterday with screaming winds of over 250 km/h flattening most anything that stood in the way.

“The winds are merciless!” wrote Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Facebook as he sheltered from the storm. “We shall survive by the grace of God!”

As hurricane force winds increased he wrote: “We do not know what is happening outside. We not dare look out. All we are hearing is the sound of galvanize [roofing] flying. The sound of the fury of the wind. As we pray for its end!”

DFAT said hurricane advisories extend across much of the north-eastern Caribbean, “including many areas still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Irma. Expect high winds, heavy rain and storm surges.

“Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. We recommend that you keep your passport with you at all times. Disruptions to essential services may occur. Contact your airline or tour operator to check if tourist services have been affected.”

A little over a week ago, Hurricane Irma battered coastal tourism infrastructure to matchwood. It badly disrupted the schedules of flights and cruises, equally vital to the Caribbean’s tourism economy.

German radio foreign service Deutsche Welle reported that on the French-Dutch island of St Martin, where Hurricane Irma killed 15 people, it was “painfully obvious that the tourists – and their badly-needed cash – will not be back any time soon”.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the damage bill for Sint Maarten would be “enormous” and warned neither the central nor local government could cover it all. Dutch newspaper AD quoted Sint Maarten Premier William Marlin saying the island needed at least EUR 1 billion (AUD 1.5 billion) for repairs.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the neighbouring island of St Barts a few days ago to promise emergency financial aid for those who had “lost everything”. Britain has pledged GBP 57 million for its own territories in the region.

That was last week, however, and Hurricane Maria is now covering much of the same territory, full force.

Written by Peter Needham

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