Macron visits French Caribbean

President Emmanuel Macron is currently in the French Caribbean to survey the damage done by Hurricane Irma.

As France24 reported, the president is making his visit at the same time that French workers have taken to the streets to protest his proposed labor reforms.

Macron’s government isn’t escaping criticism abroad either. Many residents have criticized the slow pace of relief efforts.

The president spent most of his time in St. Martin, which suffered some of the worst damage. Macron told residents that he hoped to have “health, education, access to water, energy and telecom” by the end of the week.

Some residents jeered Macron. Many people said they were still waiting for supplies or for an opportunity to take a flight off the island.

According to officials, approximately 2,000 people have already left St. Martin.

Hurricane Irma struck the islands last Wednesday. Power and water were cut off, and there were reports of widespread, violent looting. Troops were eventually brought in to restore order. Another 500 troops are expected to arrive soon.

The cost to rebuild in the French Caribbean will be at least €1 billion.

Macron said that he had authorized “one of the largest air lifts [of aid] since World War II.” His own plane brought food and supplies, and he was accompanied by doctors and relief officials.

In addition to complaints about the speed of the government’s response, some residents claimed that white tourists were given priority over the island’s residents, who are largely black and mixed-race.

Resident Johana Soudiagom told France24, “It’s selective. Excuse me, but we saw only mainlanders. That’s a way of saying, ‘I’m sorry, only whites.' There are only whites on the boat.”

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it is common to prioritize tourists in an evacuation because of their limited access to resources.

Philippe revealed parts of the reconstruction plan on Monday. He said it will take three months to restore potable water networks. Until then, people have to use cisterns and water bottles. He said 50 generators are being sent to the island to help restore electricity.

Only three of the island’s 21 schools escaped damage. Philippe said tents and other resources would be used to get children back to school as quickly as possible.

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