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King Willem-Alexander heads to islands affected by Hurricane Irma

The Dutch Royal Court has announced that King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands will depart for Curaçao this Sunday. He will be informed of the situation surrounding Hurricane Irma. Once on Curaçao, it will also be determined whether he will be able to visit the heavily affected islands of Sint-Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, which are all part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. King Willem-Alexander will be travelling with Ronald Plasterk, Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

Hurricane Irma is a powerful tropical cyclone, which is currently threatening Cuba and the United States. Irma developed on 30 August near the Cape Verde islands and quickly became a category 2 hurricane and not much later a category 3. On 5 September, Irma became a category 5 hurricane and caused catastrophic damage. By 7 September, the hurricane had caused at least 10 deaths of which at least one was on the Dutch part of Sint Maarten.

Emergency services have managed to land a small test plane on the destroyed airport of Sint-Maarten. This plane carried some police personnel. The traffic tower of the airport is no longer operational, and as such, only planes that can land without the help of the traffic tower are allowed to land. A plane with extra military personnel and supplies is expected to land there on Saturday morning. This will probably be the only plane to be able to land, as a new hurricane is already on its way.

A naval ship, the Zr. Ms. Zeeland was able to dock in the harbour of Sint-Maarten and has begun offloading emergency supplies. It is also carrying a helicopter. An earlier naval ship, the Zr. Ms. Pelikaan has also delivered emergency supplies but the harbour is heavily damaged by the hurricane, and widespread plundering is making the delivery of supplies difficult.

Ronald Plasterk has been in touch with William Marlin, the prime minister of Sint-Maarten, but contact has been difficult. The roof of the prime minister’s office has been ripped off by the hurricane.


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