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Gonzalo destroys 37 boats, 22 in Simpson Bay Lagoon alone

By Judy H. Fitzpatrick and Darlene Hodge

PHILIPSBURG--Boats were not spared the wrath of Hurricane Gonzalo which barrelled through St. Maarten on Monday evening, sinking or completely destroying 37 boats.

The hurricane claimed the life of an elderly sailor, who was on one of the destroyed boats near Boca Marina in Simpson Bay (see related story).

The number of boats destroyed excludes damaged dinghies and vessels that suffered minor damages. A total of 22 of the completely destroyed or sunk boats were in the Simpson Bay Lagoon; nine in Oyster Pond; three at Bobby's Marina and three in Great Bay, Acting Head of the Coast Guard and Head of Operation Wendell Thode told The Daily Herald on Tuesday.

The pier at the Coast Guard office suffered some damage when a wrecked boat slammed into it during the midst of the storm. One of the Coast Guard vessels that had been on a lift also suffered minor damages.

Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets said several boats sank after breaking from moorings and anchors. "Many mariners were caught off-guard and did not get to prepare as they normally should," Bervoets told this newspaper.

A number of salvage companies were busy Tuesday looking through the wreckage on the water. The foundation is assisting in the shoreline clean-up of gasoline and diesel spills caused by damaged boats using absorbent pads and boons. The main concerns are gasoline, as diesel evaporates relatively quickly.

Once the seas calm down, the foundation will check all marine park installations, as well as the mangroves in Mullet Pond for damage, Bervoets said adding that the lagoon still houses wrecks from previous hurricanes.

St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) President Brian Deher said there was "significant damage and loss in the marine industry." The damaged boats included one yacht in port at Isle de Sol. Three boats nearby sank and another was seriously damaged. There was no structural damage at Simpson Bay Marina, but one charter boat sank. No boats were damaged at Dock Maarten in Pointe Blanche, as all boats present were in lifts. The breakwater for the new Dock Maarten expansion was relatively unscathed, only losing some top soil.

Manager at Aquamania Garth Steyn called the aftermath "unbelievable" devastation. He described six or seven damaged boats near the Red Cross, four or five more in the shipyard nearby. Aquamania experienced one damaged boat and lost wood on its dock, which he called "relatively good" given the circumstance. He added that some of the yachts recorded up to 99 knots of wind during the hurricane, the maximum measurement.

No one reported missing

Thode said "one or two" flares were shot from vessels in the Great Bay area during the peak of the storm; however, he could not say whether any persons from boats were missing.

Chief of Police Peter de Witte said no one was reported missing to authorities on Tuesday, while Curacao-based Dutch Caribbean Coastguard Public Relations Officer (PRO) Roderick Gouverneur said there were no official reports of missing persons at sea in Dutch St. Maarten. Up to late last night, one person was reported missing in French St. Martin and one in St. Barths (see related story).

"The Coast Guard responded to different calls that came in during the hurricane. From last night [Monday night – Ed.] around 10:00, we were working straight the entire night until this morning and we continue today [Tuesday – Ed] during the day time," Thode told The Daily Herald. "We responded to different emergency calls as soon as the wind died down a little bit. We put two boats in the water to respond to the calls that had come in.

"Most of the boats that are destroyed are completely under water, we cannot even see registration. Some of them can only see the mast out of the water. Nothing else," said Thode.

"We got some calls when the hurricane was blazing, but we could not go out during the storm. But, as soon as it was okay we went out. People have to realise that the Coast Guard and every other department that give service to the community are also human beings and when there is a storm and a hurricane warning they have to take precautions because they cannot expect that when the storm is blazing and get to 120 miles per hour that we can put down a boat in the water – that is impossible," said Thode.

"People have to know that they are personally responsible for their own safety and after we come into the picture to help them and reassure them that they are safe, but we are talking about Mother Nature and this is unpredictable. When we are dealing with a catastrophe of this magnitude when it concerns Mother Nature we have to check and deal with safety."

Regarding the flares, Thode said one of the vessels that shot a flare had run aground and everyone on board were safe. "We expected a storm, but got blessed with a hurricane. It was still a catastrophe, no one expected it."

During the course of Tuesday, the Coast Guard had been busy assessing the damage, doing a count of the destroyed vessels and assisting persons who had issues with their boats in whatever way they could. "We checked on people whose boat sank; we tried to help them and give advice on how to salvage their boats; we helped people whose boats were taking in water to pump the water out and helped others to patch their damage. We also helped marinas to help get debris out of boats."

Thode said although many Coast Guard officers had suffered damage to their homes, personal belonging and had family members who were affected by the hurricane; they still went out to work in numbers to help others recover from the storm. He was very proud of the workers for this show of unselfishness. "We got people to work in a jiffy and they worked all night and went into the water as soon as the wind went down although communication was limited," he said.

No Daily Herald on Tuesday October 14, 2014

St. Maarten’s Office of Disaster Management (DMO) advised (see below)  to close businesses at 12pm and have everyone off the road by 4pm. Under  the circumstances it is not possible to publish The Daily (or Miami) Herald on Tuesday, October 14 either. The next, extra big papers will appear on Wednesday, October 15. Management apologizes for the inconvenience and reminds our readers to stay safe.

 The Publisher

News Release

 Department of Communication (DCOMM), Philipsburg, Sint Maarten W.I. Tel. +1 721 543-1162, 542-4119, Fax: 543-1169; Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Website: www.sintmaartengov.org

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 13, 2014/N171-9.20AM

ODM: TS Gonzalo Strengthens Further; Businesses advised to close at 12.00PM; Residents urged to complete storm preparations before nightfall; Country under a Tropical Storm Warning

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Department of Disaster Management (ODM) advises businesses to close their operations at 12.00PM today Monday and allow their employees to go home in order to complete storm preparations. 

Businesses should also use the opportunity to secure their premises.  Anything that could blow away should be secured eg. yard furniture, plastic containers, garbage bins should be brought indoors etc.

Weather conditions are forecasted to further deteriorate this afternoon as Tropical Storm Gonzalo approaches our area.

Motorists are advised to avoid using the public road network as of 4.00PM Monday.  This is for your own safety.

 Tropical Storm Gonzalo at 5.00AM was located 165 miles south east of Sint Maarten.  The storm has also strengthened with 60 mile per hour winds and higher gusts, and further strengthening is forecasted during the next 48 hours and could become a hurricane Tuesday morning.

The country is under a Tropical Storm Warning. Gonzalo has started to move through the Leeward Islands Monday morning and is in the vicinity of Antigua & Barbuda.

 Tropical storm conditions are expected according to the MDS to reach Leeward Islands/Sint Maarten late Monday afternoon and evening; expected rainfall between four to eight inches with isolate maximum totals of 12 inches.

 A heavy rainfall advisory and a flood warning are in effect for the country as well as a rough sea advisory.

 Under a Tropical Storm Warning; the warning means that there could be sustained wind speeds of between 39 and 73 miles per hour within 24 to 36 hours or less.  Any preparedness measures should be completed as soon as possible under such a warning.

Contractors should secure construction and building sites.

 For weather updates visit the site of MDS at: www.meteosxm.com

ODM will continue to monitor the progress of the storm.  Additional updates will be provided.

No The Daily Herald due to Storm Warning

page1a125SXM is under Tropical Storm Watch, with Gonzalo (wind now 40mph) expected to strengthen before is passes close by south early Monday. To safeguard our employees who work at night and especially including those who have to go on the street to distribute the paper in the morning, management has decided not to publish The Daily (or Miami) Herald on Monday, October 13 and instead bring out a bigger paper on Tuesday with a combined content. The office will open normally on Monday as soon as it’s considered safe outside.

Audit Chamber sees limited progress at Tax Department

PHILIPSBURG--The General Audit Chamber presented the report of the performance audit "Optimising Tax Revenue" to Parliament on Friday.

The audit was carried out to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the reform of fiscal system and tax revenue compliance.

In carrying out the review, the General Audit Chamber sought to determine the extent to which the minister of finance was able to effectively and efficiently optimise tax revenue. The result of the audit contributes to the social significance of a fair and balanced tax system and the importance of having a professional, customer-focused and impartial tax authority.

The 2011, 2012 and 2013 budgets contain policy objectives for optimising the tax system by means of improving the process of assessment and collection, harmonizing the tax system with French St. Martin and eliminating free-riders, the Audit Chamber said in a press release.

The General Audit Chamber said a large discrepancy existed between the content of approved budgets and the practical reality at the Tax Department and Fiscal Affairs. Activities related to optimising tax revenue included improving the assessment and collection of taxes through simplification of the tax system. Progress was found to be limited, despite substantial use of external experts and the establishment and equipping of a number of working groups, the Audit Chamber said.

Efforts to reduce the cost associated with assessment and collection were also not very successful. In 2011, the operational cost related to assessment and collection was 2.7 per cent and in 2013, the percentage was 3.5.

Scientifically derived data related to compliance was not available from government, though estimates provided in approved budget documents range from 30-40 per cent in 2011, to 40-60 per cent in 2013. Adequate research is needed to determine the extent of compliance in St. Maarten, the Chamber said.

Planned upgrading of the Tax Department, including integrating the services of the various departments (Inspectorate and Receiver, for example), has not taken place. Based on approved policy, the minister also wanted to optimise tax revenue by harmonising the tax system with French St. Martin. The various meetings and negotiations in preparation for the harmonisation have not yet taken place. It is still not clear whether the required cooperation with the French is achievable, the Audit Chamber said in the release.

The General Audit Chamber made several recommendations to the finance minister in its report including reiterating the need to use policy-based budgets that are executed based on specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, time-related and consistent norms. It said the minister of finance should periodically give account to Parliament with regard to the realisation of approved and intended policy.

"The General Audit Chamber endorses the point of departure contained in the yet-to-be approved Plan of Action for the integration and strengthening of the Tax Department of St. Maarten. That plan requires that the organisational reform of the Tax Department, specifically the integration of and renewal of ICT [Information Communication Technology – Ed.] systems and housing of the department in a single location is given precedence. After these fundamental requirements are achieved, reform or simplification of the tax system can be addressed successfully."

The General Audit Chamber reiterated the need for drafting additional rules regarding the execution and tendering procedures. These additional rules, as required by article 47 of the National Financial Accounting Ordinance, will guarantee that procurement of goods and services is carried out in a more transparent, objective and non-discriminatory fashion.

The Optimising Tax Revenue report is published in English and Dutch and is available on the website of the General Audit Chamber at:

www.arsxm.org .

Sarah elected as the new President of Parliament

page1A124~ Marlin-Romeo VP, De Weever second VP ~

PHILIPSBURG--Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams was elected President of Parliament during a plenary session on Friday.

United St. Martin (US) Party elected MP Leona Marlin-Romeo was elected First Vice-President of Parliament, while DP MP Cornelius de Weever was elected Second Vice-President.

Marlin-Romeo has joined the United People's (UP)/De Weever coalition government, but it could not be ascertained whether she has declared herself an independent MP and severed ties with US Party, with which she had publicly pledged to remain when rumours were circulating shortly after election that she was engaged in talks to lend support to UP.

All three persons were elected by 10 votes in favour. Five votes were blank. The voting was overseen by a committee comprising National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet and UP MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard. During the voting for Wescot-Williams, a total of 16 ballots were counted, although there were just 15 MPs voting. Six of the votes were blank.

US Party MP Frans Richardson requested an explanation of the discrepancy and wanted to know why there had been an extra ballot. Pantophlet said 16 ballots had been in the box – six of which were blank.

The meeting was chaired by UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson, who was the eldest MP. The new Parliament will sit for four years – 2014 to 2018.

At the end of the voting Wescot-Williams expressed hope that MPs would work together "for the people of St. Maarten" and pursue matters that need to be pursued for the wellbeing of the country.

Marlin-Romeo said there was ample opportunity to show residents that "we are here to work in their best interest." She said the broad-based government would bring stability to St. Maarten and noted that she would be voting across party lines for issues that would benefit the country.

De Weever said Friday was "a clear demonstration" of the right decisions being made going forward. He expressed hope that the new Parliament would be one that represented all people.

Tamara Leonard said she had high expectations for Parliament.

Jacobs expressed hope that MPs would put the people of St. Maarten first and that decisions made would be in the best interest of the people of the country. She hopes that MPs will represent the people of St. Maarten to the best of their abilities.

Pantophlet said he would hold to their word the MPs who had promised to work across party lines in the interest of the population. He said St. Maarten was at a crossroad politically and the people of the country should be placed first.

The meeting attracted a large number of spectators, family members and supporters of the elected MPs.

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