With June 1 marking the official start of the Hurricane Season in the Caribbean, Dutch marines from the 32 Infantry Company in Aruba maintain a permanent readiness to respond to natural disasters in the Dutch Caribbean. The Royal Netherlands Navy and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard are vigilant, as experts expect a severe Hurricane Season this year.
Hurricane and disaster relief rank amongst the Dutch Navy’s core tasks in the Caribbean. In recent history, Dutch Navy ships and marines came to the aid of Nicaragua after hurricane Felix struck in 2007. In 2008 Dutch marines were deployed to St. Maarten in the wake of hurricane Omar. And in 2010 after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a relief detachment of Dutch military and local militia from Aruba was formed to provide aid and assistance.
During the hurricane season, from June 1st till December 1st , the Operations centre of the Commander Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean in Curaçao keeps a watchful eye on depressions forming over the Atlantic. Stormy weather patterns are carefully monitored based on accurate projections. Island authorities can request military assistance if a strike is imminent. Together with local emergency services, a crisis team comprised of Navy, Marine and Coast Guard personnel will put robust contingency plans into action.
Keeping the peace
Prior to a hurricane strike, the Dutch Navy deploys to the likely affected areas to help with final preparations. Building are boarded up and shelters are provided with adequate water and food supplies. During the strike, Dutch marines protect shelters and other critical infrastructure. Afterwards, civil affairs specialists survey affected areas and determine the need for first aid and medical assistance. Dutch marines keep the peace by patrolling the affected areas, to prevent looting of ruined shops and buildings. In the unlikely event of a catastrophic hurricane strike, the Dutch Navy is able to fall back on additional relief detachments on board HNLMS Pelikaan and the West Indian Guard Ship. Even the help from disaster relief specialists from The Netherlands can be solicited.