Since the mid-1990s, St.Martin has been hit by no fewer than 9 major hurricanes. Some of the most catastrophic include Hurricane Luis (1995) which was the strongest hurricane of the 20th century. 14 people were killed and thousands of the population were left homeless. Some of the worst hit places include Marigot, Simpson Bay, and Philipsburg. In Simpson Bay alone, 1300 boats were sunk or destroyed.
Another hurricane, Bertha, in 1996 severely damaged constructions. In 1999 Hurricane Lenny killed 13 people and caused large-scale destruction to south facing-areas such as Simpson Bay and Marigot. Gondola in 2014 caused numerous properties, businesses and water works to be ruined. The last hurricane, a year and a half ago, caused serious electrical problems and building destruction.
Because of the constant batterings due to hurricanes, the island has struggled to recover over and over again. The island is still repairing from 2017, this is visible when you look around either side of the island. When crossing the lagoon bridge you can spot half sunk boats, masts sticking up from the water and yachts simply abandoned on the side of the road due to the tidal surges. When we went vegetable shopping we passed a secondary school who’s roof has still not been repaired, wires dangle by the side of the road dangerously and restaurants are boarded up at every angle.
The problem with this is that if another disaster was to strike, then it would be doubly dangerous because nothing has been fixed making more things a liability.
Effects on the island include unemployment due to businesses closing down, which leads to poverty and a low standard of life. The Dutch side is trying to avoid this by building new resorts and funding casinos to pop up everywhere. I realise while I’m writing this that instead of restoring and making houses more suitable against destruction, cheap, unstable buildings are appearing which I can bet aren’t going to survive even a Category 3 Hurricane.
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Polly note. It’s really interesting that French St Martin bears far more scars from the twin hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that hit these islands in September 2017 than any of the other islands we have visited. In Anguilla they told me that St Martin was still a wreck because they have to wait for the government approval from France before any reconstruction can happen. Dutch Sint Maarten seems full of verve and energy in its attempts to rebuild but there is a feeling of dejection over the French side. We were told that President Macron visited recently (though I think this was in fact last October) and was furious to see the state of St Martin – wanting to know what on earth had happened to all the money France had sent. This article appeared in the local paper at the time.
If France really did send €500 million, as stated in the piece, then it is even more tragic to see the main Lycee in Marigot with its roof incomplete.