Hurricane Irma kills 5 as it sweeps through island of Saint Martin
Hurricane Irma has killed at least five people and left a trail of destruction on the part-French, part-Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Martin, government officials in France and the Netherlands said on Thursday.
Packing winds of around 175 mph (290 kph), the storm lashed several small islands in the northeast Caribbean, including St Martin and St Barthelemy, tearing down trees, flattening homes and causing widespread damage.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Thursday said four bodies had been recovered on the French side of the island, revising down an earlier death toll.
“The death toll is still uncertain because clearing operations are under way,” Philippe told a news conference at a crisis center in Paris. About 50 people have been injured.
“There is considerable damage,” Philippe said, adding that local authorities in Saint Martin said 95 percent of the houses there had been damaged, and 60 percent were uninhabitable.
“There is no electricity, no drinkable water, gasoline is unavailable.”
Philippe said the government would on Friday declare a state of emergency, facilitating insurance compensation.
Government officials in the Netherlands said the hurricane had caused enormous devastation on the Dutch side of the island, killing one person and injuring several others.
The Dutch navy, which has two ships stationed off the coast, tweeted images gathered by helicopter showing damaged houses, hotels and boats.
Sint Maarten, as it is known in Dutch, is an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a population of around 40,000 people, about the same as on the French side of the island.
Images of the Dutch side’s Juliana Airport showed the landing strips appeared intact, although the navy said the airport was unreachable for now.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling in AMSTERDAM and Ingrid Melander in PARIS; Editing by Richard Lough and Hugh Lawson)