French leader to go to hurricane-hit St. Martin

French leader to go to hurricane-hit St. Martin

The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands.

In France, opposition firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon has demanded a parliamentary inquiry into whether enough security forces have been sent to restore order on St Martin after looting broke out after the storm. The hurricane - the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in Cuba since 1932 - tore off roofs, felled trees and downed electricity poles, leaving millions without power and water.

The situation worsened Saturday with the passage of Category 4 Hurricane Jose, which shuttered airports and halted emergency boat traffic through the weekend.

Collomb also dismissed as false a report that prison inmates on the Dutch part of St. Martin had escaped amid the devastation.

Federal officials deployed C-130s to evacuate USA citizens from the French Caribbean island of St. Martin to Puerto Rico.

Two damaged but operational airports on St Martin remained open for helicopters, but flights too faced being suspended as Jose bears down. A French military ship with supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, coinciding with a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Authorities in St. Martin have set up some 1,500 emergency shelters, doctors have treated around 100 people at a makeshift triage area and almost 250 people have been evacuated, including seven facing medical emergencies, officials in Guadeloupe said.

Macron held an emergency meeting later Saturday about Irma and approaching Hurricane Jose, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government's support for Irma's victims isn't "empty words". Hurricane Jose then threatened the area but passed by farther away than expected on Sunday.

Up to 70% of the island houses on the Dutch side of St. Martin were badly damaged or destroyed when Hurricane Irma hit earlier this week, Dutch officials reported Saturday.

"This is catastrophic, because a lot of the buildings here are not prepared for a downpour like this", said Yanmara Suarez, standing in the street in a yellow t-shirt with water up to her ankles.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said looting broke out on the island.

Macron said 11 people were killed in St. Martin, while another four people died on the Dutch side of the island, bringing the death toll in the Caribbean to at least 35.

"The task we have before us is enormous but, with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: the recovery".

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