Friday, 22 September, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Caribbean islands left with trail of destruction

Nine people were killed in the British territories in the hurricane out of a total of at least 50 dead in the regionMore Nine people were killed in the British territories in the hurricane out of a total of at least 50 dead in the regionMore
Dexter Carr | 14 September, 2017, 00:50

The Dutch Red Cross said 90 percent of buildings on the Dutch territory of St. Maarten were damaged and a third destroyed as Irma roared across the island it shares with French St. Martin. "We need help and there is no one here", one woman told FRANCE 24's Chris Moore in Saint Martin.

While there is some merit to this approach, this does not exonerate the British government from the pointed criticisms expressed by Caribbean representatives following Irma's passing through the region.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people across the island shared by Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin were trying to rebuild the lives they had before the hurricane hit.

At a news conference in the Pointe-a-Pitre airport before departing for St. Martin, Macron said the government's "top priority" was to help island residents return to normal life.

The security situation in the British Virgin Islands was exacerbated by the escape of more than 100 inmates from a prison "breached" by Irma. "More specifically, I have come so that I can be beside those who have overcome fear and anxiety, who have lost almost everything except family members", Macron said during a conference in Marigot.

The president was joined in the region by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose itinerary focused on the badly damaged British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.

"We have ordered one of the largest air lifts [of aid] since World War II", Macron said upon arriving on the storm-hit island. Britain also has a landing ship in place on the British Virgin Islands to help bring in heavy equipment and the Royal Navy warship Ocean is on the way, though it won't arrive from Gibraltar for about 10 days.

The nearby British Overseas Territory of Anguilla also had extensive damage, with one person killed. Seawater surged three blocks inland in the town of Caibarien, where officials said they had evacuated 880 people.

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The French government is defending its handling of hurricane preparations in the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, after being criticized by opponents for not preparing enough and by locals who felt abandoned by authorities amid the devastation. France's public insurance agency estimated that the cost of property damage in St. Martin and St. Barts totaled more than $1.44 billion.

For most St. Martin residents, such prices are out of the question.

"People were left to their own devices".

About a million people, including tens of thousands of tourists, were evacuated ahead of the storm.

The woman, who didn't give her name before being rushed away by officials, said she was flying with her children back to the U.S. to stay with her sister while her husband looked after their house in St. Martin.

"I've never experienced anything like this before and I've seen a lot of natural disasters in my life". Looters, armed with guns and knives, raided hotels and shops, and have robbed many tourists of food, electronic goods, vehicles and other valuables, The New York Times reported. "I actually had two persons try to break into my house at night the day before yesterday and I had to scare them off", he said. This maritime approach is supplemented with aid and military reinforcements transported directly from the United Kingdom by air.

The European Union has also committed to providing $2.4 million for emergency relief.

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