France mobilizing to help Hurricane Irma victims

Hurricane Irma – Action taken by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs – Statement by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

Paris, 10 September 2017

At a time when hurricane Irma has ravaged several Caribbean islands and is now approaching the coast of Florida, I would like to express my wholehearted solidarity with all those who are being affected by this tragedy. I am keeping up to date with the changing situation in real time, together with the crisis and support centre and our diplomatic and consular posts in the region.

At my request, the Ministry’s services were mobilized as soon as Hurricane Irma hit.

The crisis and support centre in Paris and our diplomatic and consular network in the region immediately adapted their operations to respond to the state of the threat: updating travel advice, sending safety messages to French citizens resident in the area or those passing through the area who are subscribed to the Ariane service, remaining in permanent contact with local authorities and working closely with the air transport and tourism industries. All our posts in the area have activated crisis response units and organized telephone response units to respond to our fellow citizens. We ask them to strictly follow local authority instructions.

As regards St Martin, we are working in close cooperation with the Dutch authorities. I am in close contact with my Dutch counterpart to coordinate the emergency response of our two countries.

In light of the exceptional level of destruction on our overseas collectivity of St Martin, I have also asked the crisis and support centre to participate in the interministerial crisis-management response implemented by the Prime Minister. An “Antilles” support centre has therefore been created at the Quai d’Orsay ministry building mobilizing teams from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health together with volunteers from the Red Cross. The centre is at the disposal of our fellow citizens and foreign embassies aware of missing individuals and aims to answer victims’ questions on assistance as well as calls from families searching for loved-ones.

The diplomatic and consular network is working particularly hard in the United States where we have a significant French community. We are at their side during this difficult time./.

Hurricane Irma/St Martin – Cooperation with the Netherlands – Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

Paris, 8 September 2017

Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian met his Dutch counterpart, Bert Koenders, in Tallinn yesterday to discuss the situation in St Martin following the passage of Hurricane Irma. They reviewed our countries’ cooperative effort to provide assistance to the people of St Martin.

France and the Netherlands are fully mobilizing their efforts to assess the scope of the damage, re-establish connections with the island, and meet the human and material needs of our compatriots following this devastating hurricane. Interministerial crisis units, which have been meeting in Paris and The Hague over the past two days, are working together to respond immediately to this situation. Teams on the ground and their reinforcements are coordinating and mutually supporting one another. The deep friendship between our two countries is helping us face the situation together, and we will do everything necessary to continue our close cooperation and fully rebuild St Martin./.

Hurricane Irma – Statement by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Paris, 6 September 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve just had a meeting of the crisis unit with the Prime Minister, the Ministre d’Etat, Minister of the Interior, all the ministers present here and their departments.

First of all, I want to say a few words to express our deep sympathy, our solidarity with our fellow citizens in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélémy, who have been affected by Cyclone Irma. I want to tell them, I want to tell their families, their loved ones, that the whole nation stands by them, mobilized.

So we’ve just reviewed the situation in great detail, following the cyclone which, during the day, has attacked – because that is indeed the appropriate term – those two islands in a devastating way.

The situation had been anticipated by all our departments for several days and had led to a mobilization of all our relevant departments, to address the emergency and get things organized.

Since the beginning of the day, since this morning French metropolitan time, we’ve been fully mobilized. (…)

As I speak, it’s too early to provide an accurate toll of any kind. But I can already tell you the toll will be harsh. We must expect casualties, and the damage to the two islands is considerable.

All the government departments are mobilized today, firstly to restore links and ensure the rescue is organized and secondly to carry out reconnaissance, by every means, with a link set up from Guadeloupe. So in the coming hours we’ll have more detailed information on the different situations.

The government departments are also fully mobilized to cover everyday needs, treat the injured, provide shelter to the victims and supply water and food as quickly as possible. (…)

More broadly, international solidarity will be harnessed to respond to the situation, and under the Prime Minister’s authority all the departments are already mobilized. Finance will also be released to address the situation, with an emergency fund set up, and a national reconstruction plan will be deployed as quickly as possible.

In addition to sympathy and this mobilization of the whole government alongside our fellow citizens, I want to express our determination to address all the situations that arise in the coming hours. To this end, the Interior Ministry has set up a hotline for families, which was publicized in the middle of the afternoon. The Minister for Overseas France will leave for Guadeloupe this evening to be as close as possible to the situation and visit as soon as access is possible.

We’ve also made contact already with several of our international partners and other countries that are victims of Cyclone Irma or will be in the coming hours. I’m thinking in particular of our Dutch friends, who share the island of Saint-Martin; I’m also thinking of, among others, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with which we’ve already established cooperation, sending experts, technical – and tomorrow, if need be, humanitarian – cooperation to come to their aid; and finally perhaps, by the end of the week, Florida.

So the government is fully mobilized, not only alongside our fellow citizens in the two islands but also all our friends in the whole region, given the extreme violence of this cyclone and the damage it’s causing throughout the region. (…)

Thank you for your attention, and I remind you that this evening we stand by all those on our territory, a few thousand kilometres from here, who are destitute, stripped of everything, some having lost loved ones, and that we stand by their families in metropolitan France and elsewhere who are experiencing anxiety. (…)./.

Published on 13/09/2017

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