Humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse deployed its DC-8 cargo plane loaded with relief supplies to St. Maarten Friday to help it recover from Hurricane Irma’s devastation.
The evangelical relief organization sent a 14-member Disaster Assistance Response Team to St. Maarten from Greensboro, N.C. along with 30 metric tons of blankets, tarps, hygiene kits, and other necessities to help those affected in the path of the hurricane. The storm severely damaged 95 percent of the homes on the island and rendered 60 percent of them uninhabitable, according to Samaritan’s Purse. The devastation on the island is one of the worst disaster relief scenarios imaginable, according to Brock Kreitzburg, director of the Disaster Response Team responding to the Caribbean.
“You don’t have the systems and the infrastructure that are normally there, right after the disaster … And so people are sleeping, could be on the ground, under some sort of makeshift shelter and trying to begin to rebuild, at least give them a base to operate from so that they can start to rebuild their lives,” Kreitzburg told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Samaritan’s Purse team landed in St. Maarten mid-afternoon Friday for the beginning of what will be a several-month relief operation for all of the islands affected by Irma. The time and resources spent at each island will depend on the needs of the communities, according to Kreitzburg.
“Initially we’re responding to St. Maarten, but that is one location that we’re going to respond to. We’re looking at the Caribbean as basically a region. We’re going to support the region. We’re going to support the needs with NFIs — non food items — could be helping them access clean water, helping them with shelter, rebuilding shelter for them. So St. Maarten is just one of many locations that we’re going to target,” Kreitzburg told TheDCNF.
The team’s first step will be to partner with local organizations and key figures in the local churches to “start mobilizing people to not only receive the items, but also to organize the individuals who have been affected by the disaster,” Kreitzburg said. The two biggest issues for the people of St. Maarten will be shelter and fresh water, both of which the response team will aid in providing.
Kreitzburg said the first responder teams welcome aid from anyone as they focus their efforts on not only relieving the affected people of the Caribbean, but also on helping Houston get back on its feet and, eventually, Florida.
“We are not, because of the storm that’s coming into Florida, we are not leaving Houston. We are there to help rebuild the communities there. We have great capacity in Houston, now we’re trying to shift them for Florida. So volunteers would be a tremendous benefit to us, but more importantly to the people both in Houston and the communities that will be affected in Florida,” Kreitzburg told TheDCNF.
Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, sends disaster response teams to communities affected by natural disasters all over the world. The organization also responds to what Kreitzburg called “man-made disasters,” with programs like the emergency field hospital in Iraq, which they continue to support.