Hurricane Irma destroys ’95%’ of French part of St Martin: official

Viet Nam News

POINTE-À-PITRE — The French part of the Caribbean island St Martin is "95 per cent destroyed" after Hurricane Irma tore through the region, top local official Daniel Gibbs said late Wednesday.

"It’s an enormous catastrophe. Ninety-five per cent 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.

’Total devastation’ in Barbuda

Hurricane Irma also killed one person and left behind "total devastation" as the monster storm smashed into the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda on Wednesday, the prime minister said.

"It is just total devastation, Barbuda now is literally rubble," Prime Minister Gaston Browne said in the aftermath of the Category Five storm.

Speaking later on CNN, Browne said 95 percent of properties in Barbuda were damaged, with up to 30 percent demolished.

"It is absolutely heart-wrenching," he said.

One person is known to have died, Browne said, apparently to be child whose mother was taking him or her to safety after the building they were in was damaged.

The airport was damaged and flights were unable to land. Badly-needed aid will have to be flown in by helicopter from Antigua, he added.

"We have estimated the rebuilding efforts to be no less than US$100 million. That is conservative, because we’re talking about rebuilding everything, all of the institutions, the infrastructure, the telecommunications, the roads... Even the hotels on the island, those are totally demolished, as well. It is terrible."

Located east of Puerto Rico, Barbuda has 1,600 residents and is the sister island of Antigua, which was spared the worst of the storm. — AFP




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