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  • Bay of Nettle, St. Martin

    Bay of Nettle, St. Martin | Photo: AFP

Published 12 September 2017

Hurricane Luis in 1995, which damaged 60 percent of housing on St. Martin cost an estimated $1.8 billion, reported the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who owns Necker Island in the Caribbean, calls for the implementation of a “Marshall Plan,” following the devastating damages Hurricane Irma left behind.

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The businessman, who has been a resident of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for over a decade, posted on his blog that the region needed a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” to rebuild and revitalize its economy. The Marshall Plan is a multi-billion-dollar U.S. program that helped rebuild Western Europe following World War II.

"The region needs a 'Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan' for the BVI and other territories that will aid in recovery, sustainable reconstruction and long-term revitalization of the local economy," Branson wrote Sunday on his Virgin blog.

The U.S.-led recovery effort was responsible for $13 billion being injected into the economies of 16 European nations.

"The UK government will have a massive role to play in the recovery of its territories affected by Irma – both through short-term aid and long-term infrastructure spending," Branson wrote. He noted, most significantly, BVI, which is an offshore financial center. “We must get more help to the islands to rebuild homes and infrastructure and restore power, clean water and food supplies,” the Virgin Group head implored.

According to the Marshall Foundation, there was a 150 percent increase in standard of living over the next three decades in participating countries, after the program.

"Over the coming weeks, we’ll have to assess exactly what is needed. It is clear to me creating jobs is paramount – there will be a huge amount of rebuilding to be done and people will need work to help rebuild their lives as well as their homes," Branson said.

Since Irma, France and the Netherlands – along with Britain – have been heavily criticized for the way in which they have handled aid to their ravaged Caribbean territories. But, Britain’s Defence Minister Michael Fallon shared a contrasting view, stating that their efforts have been sufficient.

BVI Premier Orlando Smith appealed for urgent aid from Britain, saying the situation was critical.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her government will be allocating more than $41 million for relief efforts. But, Hurricane Luis in 1995, which damaged 60 percent of housing on St. Martin cost an estimated $1.8 billion, reported the U.S. National Hurricane Center. 

Britain's international development secretary Priti Patel announced that the British navy, along with several Royal Marines and a contingent of military engineers, had been dispatched with makeshift shelters and water purification systems.

Additionally, Branson said that his Virgin Unite will coordinate aid and supplies, and reconstruction efforts in the upcoming months. According to Forbes, Branson purchased Necker Island for $180,000 and is ranked 324th in the world with a net worth of about $5 billion.

According to a Reuters agency report, one U.S. Virgin Island-based blogger, Jenn Manes, detailed a troubling development involving a list of robberies and break-ins on the island since the hurricane. Manes said she was forced to install a bar on the inside of her door to deter burglars.

“This is not St. John anymore. I‘m not sure what it is. What I do know is that I am scared. My friends are scared. And we don’t know what to do,” she documented.

Alex Martinez, an American stranded in the Dutch part of St. Martin, recounted chasing would-be looters who tried to rob his hotel. “We had to fend for ourselves,” he told Reuters.

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The Dutch authorities said an undisclosed number of arrests were made after Irma.

Manes confirmed that the conditions had somewhat improved, stating that the police were patrolling the streets and that a Navy ship had also arrived to help.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk visited St. Martin, on Monday, ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron.

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