Bonaire unites together to raise funds for the hurricane-ravaged Windward Islands of the Dutch Caribbean.
There are six islands in the Caribbean which are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and although separated by geography, as well as governmental entities, the six islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (the ABC islands in the southern Caribbean) and Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius (the Windward Islands, or SSS islands, located at the northern end of the Caribbean archipelago), are inextricably linked–by family, friends, commercial enterprise, and culture.
Hurricane Irma began her rampage through the Caribbean.
It was only one week ago today that Hurricane Irma began her rampage with direct hits as a Category Five hurricane. She first took aim at tiny Barbuda, population 1400, and then swung in with a one-two punch on the dual-country territory of Sint Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French) as the eye wall passed twice over the island.
The Windward Islands, known locally as Isla Ariba (literally, the islands above, in Papiamentu), are accustomed to tropical storms and hurricanes. But no one ever imagined what Irma had in store for them as she tore across the tiny island with eye wall sustained winds of 185 miles per hour/297 kilometers per hour and gusts well above that.
Utter devastation is seen everywhere.
After all was said and done, it was with shock that island residents took stock of their circumstances. On Sint Maarten/St. Martin, the airport, seaport, hospital, electric and water plants, cell towers and transmitting equipment, and 95% of all buildings were either destroyed or damaged to the point of total loss. In 12 hours, the way of life and the livelihoods of these islanders were destroyed.
With 95% of infrastructure destroyed or damaged, it’s time to send in the Dutch Marines.
Communications were down. Power was gone. Water was gone. Homes were destroyed. There was no sanitation. There was not even a way for them to put out the call for help. Our Dutch Marines went into action.
They train for disaster management semi-annually on each island in the Dutch Caribbean, so that, in just such a case as this, they already have a familiarity with the island.
Our Dutch Marines were able to make a beach landing, and get in immediate aid and a water-maker, as well as heavy equipment to clear the runway. Since that time, additional marines, police, and aid workers have been dispatched to help out our sister island. Military ships are plying the waters back and forth between Curacao and Sint Maarten, as well as Saba and St. Eustatius, bringing water, food, medical supplies, equipment, and evacuating those needing medical attention. The images and videos that are being posted on social media, as Internet becomes available, are heart-wrenching. Even Royal Caribbean Cruise Line re-arranged schedules, and sent four cruise ships filled with supplies to islands requiring relief, including Sint Maarten. Then, with the previously laden ships empty, they assisted with evacuations from the afflicted islands.
BES sister islands of Saba and St. Eustatius also suffered through the storm, but did not take a direct hit with the eye wall passing over them. Although each island did sustain structural damage, it was much less than the catastrophic damage sustained on Sint Maarten/St. Martin. Both Saba and St. Eustatius are already on the road to recovery.
King Willem-Alexander visits the Windward Islands.
On Sunday, our King Willem-Alexander arrived in Curacao from the European Netherlands. On Monday, he visited Sint Maarten and today he visited both Saba and St. Eustatius. King Willem-Alexander said this after his visit to Sint Maarten, as he met with reporters:
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I’ve seen a lot of natural disasters in my life. I’ve seen a lot of war zones in my life. but I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been very useful to see for myself what terrible damage this storm has done and in this way to also show the population of Sint Maarten and the governor and prime minister that we stand together here as a kingdom and that we will solve this together.”— King Willem-Alexander, on the Dutch national network NOS
Boneiru pa Isla Ariba (Bonaire For the Windward Islands).
Bonaire has united to assist our sister islands, under the umbrella of Boneiru pa Islariba (Bonaire For the Windward Islands). This citizens’ initiative is in collaboration with the Red Cross Bonaire, the Island Government, and the NGO Platform Bonaire.
You can help with your presence at fund-raising events or with a monetary donation.
There are two fund-raising events being held this coming weekend. If you are vacationing on Bonaire, please consider attending one of these to help raise funds.
Additional opportunities exist for helping out via Bonaire For the Windward Islands. Visit the Facebook page for more details.
If you’d like to help Bonaire help our sister islands, financial support can be donated via the Red Cross Bonaire. No amount is too small. Bank transfers can be made to the account of:
Red Cross Bonaire
P.O. Box 90
Maduro & Curiel’s Bank (Bonaire)
Swiftcode (BIC): MCBKBQBN
Please add a note that it is “Ayuda pa Isla Ariba“, help for the Windward Islands.
Bonaire’s collective heart goes out to all affected by Hurricane Irma.
And while we mourn the damage to our beautiful Isla Ariba sister islands, our collective heart goes out to all those who were in the subsequent path of Hurricane Irma–Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, and, of course, the entire state of Florida and the fellow-islanders in the hard-hit Florida Keys. We send our thoughts and prayers that they recover quickly.
(Source: Bonaire Insider Reporter, NOS Dutch National Network, Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland, Boneiru pa Isla Ariba)
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Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.