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article imageDutch king to visit hurricane-hit Sint Maarten

By AFP     Sep 11, 2017 in World

Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the devastated Caribbean island of Sint Maarten on Monday to view the aid operation for tens of thousands left stricken by Hurricane Irma, the palace said.

Accompanied by Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk, he will tour the damaged Princess Juliana airport, a hospital and school, and speak with aid and medical workers as well as security officials, the palace said in a statement.

He will also climb up to the Point Blanche viewpoint to survey the damage to the harbour and parts of the island.

"I am here to find out what has happened and how the coordination effort is going," the king told reporters after arriving in the nearby island of Curacao late Sunday.

He toured the aid coordination centre in Curacao and visited patients who were airlifted to hospital from Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma ravaged the island on Wednesday, downing power lines, cutting electricity and communications to the island.

"The only message I have at the moment, is that we know what you have gone through and we are doing our best to help everyone who is in need," Willem-Alexander added.

The 50-year-old king will also visit the Dutch territories of St Eustatius and Saba on Tuesday, the palace said.

Some 70 percent of homes and infrastructure on Sint Maarten -- the once popular tourist hotspot shared with France's Saint Martin -- were destroyed when Irma whipped through on Wednesday. Four people were killed in the storm.

The Dutch government has rushed aid and hundreds of troops to the island to help residents and restore order amid reports of looting.

"There is still no functioning public administration" on Sint Maarten, Plasterk told reporters, quoted by ANP.

And despite efforts to restore security "you still cannot talk about a safe situation," he added.

Mass distribution of food and water was due to start Monday in Sint Maarten, and desalination equipment and purification tablets were also on their way.

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