Swan Charters are leaving the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe as the French general strike takes hold. John Burnie, the company's manager reports from Point a Pitre
The general strike in Guadeloupe running in tandem with the situation in Europe took a dramatic turn for the worse yesterday and I regret that it will be necessary to remove the entire Swan charter fleet from the island base in Pointe a Pitre.
Three of our captains are long term residents of the island and they strongly support this action – they feel it has become necessary to do this to preserve not only their own safety but ensure the continued integrity of our Caribbean operations.
Two yachts have already left but two captains are waiting to see how the situation develops as they have domestic responsibilities which would make leaving the island for any length of time difficult. But they will leave if they have to.
Racial tensions have been building up in Guadeloupe over the past week and the absence of food, water and power has created a politically charged and dangerous social situation.
A serious crisis has been evolving this week to the extent that the local population has little food and water left. Inevitably this will put pressure on a situation that could quickly evolve into civil unrest.
The deteriorating situation during this current week has not been well reported locally in the Caribbean or internationally. Following a crisis meeting at the Guadeloupe Prefecture today the authorities are now mobilising the police and armed forces to cope with a strike situation that is predicted to last as long as one month.
Our captains had been staying on their individual yachts as they had not been able to travel to their Guadeloupe homes safely – most forms of transport, including private cars, are now at a standstill due to the lack of fuel in the country. Armed gangs are blockading routes and white French nationals are suddenly being randomly targeted, causing many residents to begin to fear for their safety.
The captains are predicting a good chance of severe civil unrest next week – under these circumstances we were compelled to move the fleet 20 miles south to Les Saintes a) where it is safer and b) where most shops and businesses are still open – this is only an anchoring area with no marina facility. If things do not improve in Guadeloupe very quickly we will then temporarily relocate the fleet to Antigua.