Irma turns Caribbean island paradises into nightmares

Hurricane Irma's Caribbean destruction

France prepares emergency aid to St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, islands devastated by Hurricane Irma

Storm-hit Saint Martin and Saint Barts escaped a further battering by Hurricane Jose, which had "markedly less" of an impact on the French Caribbean islands than anticipated, France's meteorological agency said Sunday.

Emmanuel Macron will leave Monday night for the Caribbean island of St. Martin to show his support for the relief effort, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Sunday.

"It's been very useful to see for myself what bad damage this storm has done and in this way to also show the population of St. Martin and the governor and prime minister that we stand together here as a kingdom and that we will solve this together", he told reports 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.

Last week, the Category 5 Hurricane Irma hammered St. Barts and St. Martin islands, where it left at least 11 dead, seven missing people and over 100 injured, as well as almost total destruction of urban infrastructure. The U.S. Virgin Islands were also hard hit. Some felt the French government spend more efforts rescuing white tourists than black or mixed-race islanders. "It's unbelievably chaotic." Arriving in Eindhoven, 30-year-old Clara James said the Dutch side of St Martin "literally looks like a war zone".

"St. Martin will be reborn, I promise", Macron told reporters in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French island of Guadeloupe.

The government told all residents to stay inside and put the island and St. Barts on its highest alert level as Hurricane Jose rolled through the area.

About 1,900 French police and troops are now on the ground to ensure security in St. Martin and power has been restored in about 50 percent of its homes, the French president said.

The Caribbean's Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) had been quickly activated, accompanied by aid and support from the UK, US, Canadian, French and Dutch governments.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the situation remained "grim" on the island where widespread looting had broken out and a state of emergency was in force.

Olive said there has been some "disgusting" looting and desperation but also hopeful signs.

Dutch Major-General Richard Oppelaar said 200 tonnes of aid had been delivered, while 750 people have been evacuated from Sint Maarten. "The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks", he said.

Johnson will visit the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, where Britain has now sent 997 military personnel to bolster relief efforts and security.

French authorities said they gave priority to injured, sick and elderly people.

However as Caribbean leaders met to discuss the situation in the United Kingdom there was loud criticism of Britain's response to Irma.

The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma's winds dropped from 125 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour, but that's likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.

"It is an insufficient drop in the Caribbean ocean for islands subject to devastation and inhabited by its own citizens", he wrote in an email.

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