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Increased Sargassum Seaweed Collects on the Eastern Beaches of St. Maarten and an Increased Beaching Event of Sargassum is Expected.

sargasumweed27052020PHILIPSBURG:--- The Nature Foundation is forewarning the public about the increased amounts of Sargassum Seaweed on the Eastern beaches of St. Maarten. As we head into the summer months the temperature increases which causes the sargassum to bloom and large amounts are expected for this summer. This seaweed has been an increasing problem throughout the Caribbean since 2011 landing on beaches in massive amounts and decomposing slowly.
The forecast from the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab predicts that the eastern Caribbean will see large amounts of Sargassum in May to July 2020, as presently the Sargassum amount continued to increase across the central Atlantic. Some of the Lesser Antilles Islands will continue to experience moderate to strong beaching events of sargassum on both their windward and leeward beaches. This situation may continue into summer, and the overall amount is likely to be similar to that in 2015. As large outbreaks of Sargussum occurred in the Caribbean in 2015 and 2018, this month’s predictions show a worrisome summer for Sargassum landings on St. Maarten.

Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Sargassum first plagued St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming on certain beaches due to a large amount of seaweed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

Along with causing a build-up of seaweed on the beaches that visitors and residents both enjoy visiting the decomposing sargassum can cause potential health problems by emitting a colorless, toxic and highly flammable gas called hydrogen sulfide. This gas spreads an unpleasant odor much like the smell of rotten eggs. Residents of areas that are or will be impacted are warned to take precautions to avoid the negative health effects.

“We are advising residents in especially Guana Bay and Point Blanche to keep windows and doors closed as much as possible,” says the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, “When the Sargassum lands and starts to decompose hydrogen sulfide gas is released. Inhaling the gas in small doses can trigger irritation of the eyes and the respiratory system, especially among people who are sensitive to it. The groups most at risk are people with respiratory problems, asthma patients, elderly people, babies and pregnant women. Certain animals, especially dogs, are also sensitive to the inhalation of hydrogen sulfide.”

While there is currently a great deal of research about what can be done with the excess Sargassum Seaweed it should be noted that doing so properly takes time and preparation. Any members of the community wishing to use the seaweed for fertilizer, for example, must diligently research the proper way to prepare the Sargassum to keep themselves, others in the area, and animals nearby safe.

Government to honor frontline workers, parents ask for children participation.

PHILIPSBURG:--- The -Government will be honoring Frontline Heroes on Friday announced Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs at the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday. Parents are hereby informed that children with frontline career day costume to send it by email to the government of St. Maarten. Emails should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the names of the child must also be included in the email.
Prime Minister Jacobs said children will be chosen to participate in the activities scheduled on Friday to honor frontline workers.

St. Maarten currently has two confirmed COVID-19 positive active cases to date, 447 persons have been tested and of the 77 positive cases, 60 have recovered. Notably, St. Maarten has had only one positive case in the last 29 days, and no new cases in the last 16 days.
local labs continue to test on the PCR system whereby symptomatic persons are being tested. Currently, there are 500 of these tests.
After several weeks, St. Maarten has finally received the awaited anti-bodies' tests (900 samples) from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) in the Netherlands last week. As CPS's community outreach testing campaign has now been completed, the Department of Public Health is finalizing protocols to determine who will be tested moving forward. The local labs are currently undergoing their authentication process and we hope to be updated by next week as to when they can commence.

Ad Hoc Committee Integrity scheduled to meet on Thursday.

PHILIPSBURG:--- The Ad Hoc Committee Integrity (AHCI), will meet on May 28, 2020.
The AHCI Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 10.00 hrs., and will be held in a virtual setting.

The agenda points are:
1. Continuation discussion on topics proposed in connection with setting the parameters and work method for the Permanent Committee Integrity
2. Approval for an invitation to the Integrity Chamber as a familiarization meeting and to inform the AHCI regarding (investigations) and integrity concerns (IS/812/2019-2020 dated May 4, 2020)

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, via the internet, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

Task force formed to collect land lease fees, businesses first to be targeted.

~ government still working with unions to seal an agreement.~

PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of VROMI Egbert Jurendy Doran and Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion met on Tuesday to begin putting a task force in place that will go after delinquent businesses that have not been paying government years of lease land fees. SMN News asked the Ministers if they were looking at alternative ways to collect money that is owed to the government to improve the government’s liquidity problems.
Minister of VROMI Doran said that since taking office he has seen a number of businesses that are not paying their dues for lease land. He said after the businesses that owe government has been contacted then the task force will also go after private residents that also owe government money lease land.
It should be noted that while the Government of St. Maarten was given a take it or leave it option from the Dutch Government for liquidity support the Chamber of Labor Unions that are representing civil servants are not willing to take any form of cuts.
On Monday, the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion proposed to cut 50% of the vacation allowances for the years 2020 and 2021, while other cuts are travel expenses for government and cost for uniforms. This proposal was also rejected by the unions. The unions are expected to present another proposal by Thursday.
In the meantime, Aruba and Curacao who also accepted the conditions given by the Dutch Government for liquidity support already began the process to cut personnel costs by 12.5% as suggested by the Dutch Government.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs made clear that she already sought legal advice on how to move forward regarding the cuts civil servants have to endure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacobs said the government has to show that they tried to reach an agreement and that government is dealing with a financial crisis. She said the government is planning to hold an information session with the civil servants where they will be given the opportunity to ask their employers questions. Jacobs said that she wants to make sure the civil servants get the necessary information from their employer and not only from the unions.

Office of Disaster Management calls for Hurricane Season Preparations.

PHILIPSBURG:--- An above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been forecasted by the U.S. National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center with up to 19-named storms, of which 10 could become hurricanes, and of those, six could become major hurricanes of Category 3 or more.

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, and three of those major hurricanes.

Fire Chief/National Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson is calling on residents and the business community to start preparing for the hurricane season.

“Our national disaster management system commenced preparations earlier this month. This includes all 10 Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and other relevant agencies, who have been working diligently to create a sound disaster risk management plan that is currently in the execution phase in order to save lives and minimize damage from hurricanes,” Richardson said on Tuesday.

The Office of Disaster Management (ODM) calls on residents to review the content of their Disaster Kit and to start restocking it with the essentials that are necessary to ride out the hurricane season.

Every household’s Disaster Kit should be able to support members of the household for a minimum of seven days after the hurricane has passed.

The Disaster Kit should contain non-perishable food, water, and medicine (fill prescriptions before the storm); non-electric can opener; first-aid kit; extra cash (ATM machines and credit cards won’t work if there is no electricity); battery-powered radio and flashlights as well as extra batteries; make sure cell phones are all charged prior to the arrival of the hurricane; fill up your car/truck with gas; check if your home and automobile insurance are up to date; put ID cards, passports and driver’s license, insurance papers in a waterproof bag along with other important documents.

If you are a parent with an infant or young child (ren), you also need to have essential items as part of your disaster supply kit: baby formula; diapers; bottles; powdered milk; medications; moist towels; and diaper rash ointment.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of Government mandated measures are in place in order to protect public health. The aforementioned must also be taken into consideration for hurricane season preparations.

Your Disaster Kit must also include hand sanitizer, a soap bar or liquid soap; two cloth face coverings for each person; disinfecting wipes, or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces.

Preparations for the Atlantic hurricane season should be done in a timely manner to avoid the rush. Your Disaster Kit should be completed by the end of June and the latest before the end of July. Hurricane season preparations have to be in place before the start of the peak of the season (mid-August – mid-October).

Use the quiet period of the season which is from early June to the end of July to trim back tree branches from your home; cut all dead or weak branches on any trees on your property; clean-up your yard and put away items that could blow away during the passing of a hurricane; check your roof and storm shutters to make sure they are secure and the latter are working.

For those whose homes are not yet storm/hurricane ready, you should make alternative housing arrangements to stay at family or friends.

Remember, it only takes one to make it a bad hurricane season. Be Prepared as it's your responsibility!

The 2020 hurricane season ends November 30.

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