by Staff Writers
Pointe-À-Pitre (AFP) Sept 7, 2017
The French part of the Caribbean island St Martin is "95 percent destroyed" after Hurricane Irma tore through the region, top local official Daniel Gibbs said late Wednesday.
"It's an enormous catastrophe. Ninety-five percent of the island is destroyed. I'm in shock. It's frightening," said Gibbs, a former French lawmaker, speaking on Radio Caribbean International.
The island is in need of emergency assistance, he said. "I have sick people to evacuate, I have a population to evacuate because I don't know where I can shelter them," he said.
At least six people have been killed in the French part of St Martin, Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire said.
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, cut a deadly swath through a string of small Caribbean islands on Wednesday.
The French minister for overseas affairs, Annick Girardin, was to fly to Guadeloupe late Wednesday with emergency teams and supplies to assess the situation, the ministry said.
"It's too soon for casualty figures (but) I can already tell you the toll will be harsh and cruel," French President Macron said, adding that he expected damage on St Barts and St Martin to be "considerable".
St Martin ("Sint Maarten" in Dutch), located south of the island of Anguilla, is divided between the Netherlands and France.
St Barts ("Saint Barthelemy" in French), which lies to the southeast of St Martin, is administered with the status of a French collectivity, as is the French part of St Martin.
Hurricane damage has left Dutch St Martin 'unreachable': PM
"Alas, the island is not reachable at this point because of the huge damage to the airport and the harbour," Rutte told reporters.
He added there were no reports of deaths on the Dutch side so far, while no one had been killed on the Dutch islands of St Eustatius and Saba as the powerful and rare Category Five storm roared through on Wednesday.
French authorities say at least nine lives have been lost on the French side of St Martin.
Rutte said the priority now was to get the airport in the southern Dutch part of the island up and running again, to enable aid to be brought in.
After holding crisis talks with his top cabinet ministers, Rutte confirmed "there is no power" on St Martin and the island's "infrastructure is badly damaged."
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters the airport on the French side will be reopened, allowing helicopters and aircraft to supply aid.
"The airport in the north has not been hit so much," Collomb said.
Images shot by a Dutch naval helicopter over St Martin revealed the extent of Irma's trail of destruction.
Huge containers normally stacked at a port had been tossed aside like matchsticks, roofs had been peeled off buildings, and debris was scattered everywhere.
Boats in a marina lay on their sides, half-submerged in water
"Our highest priority is to restore public amenities," naval Lieutenant Egbert Stoel told Dutch television RTL from Curacao.
Rutte also called on Dutch citizens to donate to a special fund set up by the Dutch Red Cross.
Marigot (AFP) Sept 6, 2017
Monster Hurricane Irma slammed into the French Caribbean islands on Wednesday after making landfall in Barbuda, packing ferocious winds and causing major flooding in low-lying areas. As the rare Category Five storm barreled its way across the Caribbean, it brought gusting winds of up to 185 miles per hour (294 kilometers per hour), weather experts said. After making landfall just before ... read more
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