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article imageDutch troops fail to stop looting after Irma: island leader

By AFP     Sep 18, 2017 in World

The leader of the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin on Monday accused troops deployed from the Netherlands of doing nothing to stop looters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, a Dutch newspaper reported.

"The curfew that was put in place was not controlled, people were looting, soldiers were watching them do it and didn't intervene," William Marlin, prime minister of the Dutch part of the island called Sint Maarten told the NRC daily.

He said he had personally reached an agreement on security arrangements with the local police chief and the head of the Dutch navy even before Irma hit on September 6.

But "something went wrong in the communications," he told the newspaper.

But the commander of the naval forces, Rob Verkerk, shot back that Marlin's comments were "nonsense."

In a message sent on his Twitter account, Verkerk insisted that hundreds of Dutch soldiers deployed on the island had "acted within the limits of what was possible right from the very start."

Irma ravaged the island, divided between France and The Netherlands, levelling some 70 percent of the infrastructure on the Dutch side.

As Dutch officials struggled to get badly needed food and water to residents in the early days, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned troops were under orders to crack down on looters.

But Marlin later in the day denied having given the interview to NRC during a phone call with Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk.

Plasterk told Radio 1 he couldn't comment on the interview, as officials brace for the arrival in the coming hours of Hurricane Maria which has now become a Category 3 storm, and is tracking a similar course to Irma in the Caribbean.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Maria was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles (195 kilometres) per hour.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the French territory of Guadeloupe, which has been the staging area for relief operations for several islands battered by Irma.

Tropical storm warnings are also in place in Antigua and Barbuda, and St Lucia as well as the Dutch islands of Saba and St Eustatius which were both badly hit by Irma. But the latest predictions say Maria could pass about 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of St Martin, sparing the territory the worst of its force.

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