Hurricane Irma leaves trail of devastation on Barbuda island

Violet Powell
September 14, 2017

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner, speaking Sunday with Europe1-CNews-Les Echos, said he "perfectly (understood) the anger" of residents after Hurricane Irma tore through the islands, killing nine people, destroying houses and cutting off the water supply.

"We need to go beyond the thought that these are territories and leave it to the respective governments", Khin-Sandi Lwin, who is leading UNICEF's response in the Caribbean, told CNN.

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.

Philippe also noted that the French Navy vessel Tonnerre, due for deployment to Saint Martin from Toulon on Tuesday, has "hospital capacity superior to what the hospital of Saint Martin had before the hurricane".

The island of St. Martin — divided in the 17th century into the French territory of Saint-Martin and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten — measures just 87 square kilometers (34 square miles).

"They should've been more organized than they were", he said.

However, while France and the Netherlands have been praised for their rapid and coordinated actions in their territories of Guadeloupe (France) and Sint Maarten (Netherlands) among others, the United Kingdom government has been criticised for being too slow to act in the British Overseas Territories of the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. Others say that the residents of the overseas territories have been made to feel like "third class citizens" of the UK.

British junior foreign minister Alan Duncan said 100 prisoners escaped in the British Virgin Islands during the hurricane.

"All the food is gone now", 63-year-old Jacques Charbonnier told the paper, "People are fighting in the streets for what is left".

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

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The cost of Hurricane Irma, described as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, is seen costing at least 1.2 billion euros ($1.44 billion) in Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, a French public reinsurance body said on Saturday.

"People were left to their own devices".

Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, managed to avoid a direct hit from Irma but suffered strong winds and torrential rains. He said Britain needs "to put the pedal to the metal" to get things back to normal.

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

"We have put in place one of the biggest air bridges since World War II" to bring emergency aid and rescuers to the islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, he said.

"I've never experienced anything like this before and I've seen a lot of natural disasters in my life".

Some of the tourism-dependent islands, after days without electricity and with food and water supplies, have drifted close to lawlessness.

Macron's government has defended its actions and has sent more than 1,000 troops, police and emergency workers to St. Martin and St. Barts in recent days.

Macron was among the European leaders who visited the Hurricane-torn islands this week. They also were transporting aid to the region.

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