In view of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, I want to express my wholehearted solidarity with the American people, who, after the Caribbean countries, are experiencing a particularly difficult interval. I offer the families of the victims my deepest condolences. France remains at the U.S. authorities’ disposal to provide any and all assistance they deem necessary.
I also want to pay tribute to the calm shown by tens of thousands of French nationals living in the affected area. I call on them to exercise the utmost caution in the days to come and to follow the safety instructions provided to them. We stand by their side. The Foreign Ministry’s crisis center, our embassy in the United States and our consulates in Washington, New York, Atlanta and Boston are fully mobilized to serve our compatriots. Everything is being done to guarantee their safety.
I want to give you a quick update on Hurricane Sandy. As you know it began affecting the Caribbean on October 26, then successively Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba and then the Bahamas. It has caused the death of 69 people. There have been no French victims, although we deplore the considerable material damage to the Alliance française premises in Santiago, on the island of Cuba. The hurricane then moved toward the east coast of the United States.
The American authorities are fully mobilized. We have complete confidence in them. For our part, the Ministry’s Crisis Center, our embassy in Washington, as well as the 4 French general consulates concerned on the east coast, i.e. from the south to the north, Atlanta, Washington, New York and Boston are also mobilized.
We have taken 3 measures here in Paris and locally through our representations. First of all, as part of a preventive strategy ahead of the hurricane, the Travel Advice website has been updated several times, in particular for Cuba and then twice for the United States. Guidelines are also being issued in real time on the Internet sites of our embassy and our consulates and alerts were issued on Sunday to people travelling to the United States registered on the Ariane portal. This is a system that allows French citizens traveling abroad to register and provide their contact information so that they can be contacted at short notice particularly in these types of circumstances. A second set of measures implemented in our posts in the United States involves emergency units that can be activated at any time. Lastly, the Ministry’s Crisis Center is of course on alert and stands ready, if necessary, to respond to possible requests from our compatriots.
One last comment in order to give you an idea of the size of the communities concerned: in all, around 65,000 French nationals live in this area of the northeast coast, including 35,000 in New York, 15,000 in Washington, 8,000 in Boston and 7,000 in Atlanta.