Trinidad and Tobago will not help foreign colonies/dependencies namely the shared island of Saint Martin and Sint Maarten hit by Hurricane Irma but only its Caricom neighbours and even this limited aid will only be given if it is not put under threat by the impending Hurricane Jose.
This, from Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Security Stuart Young at a news briefing yesterday at Tower D, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
The briefing revealed that in the storm-hit areas, all TT nationals were safe. Young said three TT nationals were in the British VIrgin Islands and seven or eight were in St Martin.
While Young mulled offering an Air Guard C-26 airplane to assist against Irma’s devastation, in addition to a State-owned helicopter already committed, he did not want such assets to get stranded up the islands by Jose’s arrival.
Imbert said was receiving demands from members of the public for Government to assist St Martin but that island’s two parts were each, respectively, colonies of France and the Netherlands. Countries that were better positioned than TT to help the island. Amid reports of a breakdown in law and order he said a Dutch warship is near St Martin.
“They are dependencies,” Imbert said. “We are focussing on our Caricom colleagues.”
He added, “Within reason, with our financial difficulties, whatever assistance we can render to Caricom countries we will. So far its Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda has been virtually flattened.”
Imbert said yesterday morning that he had talked Antigua and Barbuda’s foreign minister and that as most of Barbuda’s infrastructure had been flattened, their population had been evacuated to Antigua as both islands now awaited the arrival of Hurricane Jose.
“Hurricane Jose is projected to hit Antigua or Barbuda tomorrow (today), Imbert said.”
Imbert said aid would be chiefly by the loan of a 12-seater Agusta Westland helicopter (owned by State-run National Helicopter Services) already in Dominica on private business.
“We will re-route it to Antigua. It is expected to arrive in Antigua this (yesterday) morning,” he said. “We’ll make it available for one week to assist in Barbuda.”
Imbert said the Government would absorb the cost of providing the helicopter, while the Antigua and Barbuda Government would provide accommodation to the flight crew. He added that he expected private citizens of TT to help Antigua and Barbuda.
Regarding Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Imbert said several TT nationals were stranded there.
Young said all TT nationals in the hurricane-hit areas were safe, including nationals now in Tortola and the British Virgin Islands.
He said he had, earlier yesterday, held a meeting of relevant agencies, notably the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Security; Defence Force; Caribbean Airlines Limited; Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Immigration Division.
The aim was to put in place plans, protocols and logistics. Young said he was in close contact with allies such as the United States. He said a statement will be issued advising how TT nationals in hurricane-hit areas can register their location, and to advise that the collection of relief will be coordinated by the ODPM. “The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force is on standby,” he said. “We are also in contact with the Venezuelan Government who are sending troops and military supplies to assist.”
ile some foreign military aircraft have managed to fly in to the devastated Saint Martin Airport but not civilian craft, Young did not want to send assets from TT that could get stranded there by Jose’s impact.
Asked about the 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico yesterday, Young advised any TT nationals in Mexico to contact the TT embassy in Washington DC, even as the TT Government would liaise with the Mexican Embassy in Port-of-Spain.