Puerto Rico opens arms to refugees from Irma's Caribbean chaos

Puerto Rico opens arms to refugees from Irma's Caribbean chaos
From Reuters - September 13, 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Despite economic problems and its own damage from Hurricane Irma, Puerto Rico is taking thousands of refugees from the U.S. Virgin Islands whose homes were destroyed by the storm, with a cruise ship carrying up to 2,000 more evacuees due on Thursday.

Visibly shaken residents from St. Martin and the Virgin Islands arrived on Tuesday in U.S. military aircraft, bringing tales of terrifying winds and a breakdown in law and order.

The people of Puerto Rico - what big hearts you guys got because our (local) government did nothing - nothing, said William Vonfabrice, 61, from St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. People coming at us with machetes, offering bullets and saying There is more for you, breaking into houses, hurting people.

Royal Caribbeans Majesty of the Seas cruise ship was expected to depart the badly damaged U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas early on Thursday, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands commissioner of tourism said.

Irma skirted Puerto Rico last week, knocking out power to 70 percent of the island, damaging buildings and killing at least three people, but the destruction was not nearly as bad as elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The storms 185 mph (297 kmh) winds struck hardest on a string of tiny Caribbean islands that are territories of Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States. Homes, hotels, hospitals, marinas and airports were badly damaged and the scale of the destruction seemed to catch the wealthy nations off guard.

The nations all have launched military relief operations but locals and tourists have criticized the response for being too slow and not reaching everybody evenly.

Visiting the French Caribbean on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to quickly rebuild St. Martin, a French territory shared with the Netherlands. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with security officials in Anguilla.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander said the destruction he saw in St. Martin was on a scale he had never seen before.


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