Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Hurricane Irma: France, UK and Netherlands step up response


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Pres-11123-FREuropean countries are boosting relief efforts in their Caribbean territories devastated by Hurricane Irma, amid criticism over the response.


French President Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting French islands that took the full force of the storm, said a huge "airlift" was bringing more aid.


UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is due in the Caribbean and Dutch King Willem-Alexander spent the night there.


Irma killed at least 23 people in the three countries' overseas territories.


The victims include 10 dead on the French island of Saint Barthélémy and on the French part of Saint Martin - which is shared with the Netherlands.


As he arrived on the neighbouring French island of Guadeloupe on Tuesday, President Macron said the government had responded with "one of the biggest airlifts since World War Two".


He told reporters that last week's hurricane had been almost unprecedented and that the effort had been hampered by a second hurricane, Jose, in the area days later.


But he promised a "rebirth" of the islands as troops and relief supplies were being sent.


Critics had accused Mr Macron's government of not doing enough to help hurricane victims and to prevent looting on Saint Barthélémy and Saint Martin.


The UK government has faced similar complaints following the death of at least nine people people on British territories.


Mr Johnson is due to visit the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, which have also suffered widespread devastation.


The BBC's Laura Bicker and Paul Blake on Tortola island say many neighbourhoods have been flattened, and their residents can be seen trying to cook and clean amidst the rubble.


About 1,000 UK soldiers are now in the region to deliver aid, and more troops and supplies are due in the coming days, officials say.


Meanwhile King Willem-Alexander is visiting Dutch territories, where at least four people were killed. He spent Monday night in Sint Maarten - the Dutch side of Saint Martin - and is due to travel on to other islands.


"I've seen proper war as well as natural disasters before, but I've never seen anything like this," he told Dutch radio on Tuesday. "Everywhere you look there's devastation, you see the collapse.”

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