At least six killed in Hurricane Irma

Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017
Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017Photo: @kon_marine / Twitter

Hurricane Irma took at least six lives on Saint-Martin, the French part of the island that also includes Sint Maarten, broadcaster Franceinfo reported on behalf of the French government. Thus far no information is available about victims in the Dutch part of the island, the Telegraaf reports.

Around 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Red Cross on Sint Maarten said that a large communications mast in the prot of the island fell over during the hurricane, making it almost impossible to communicate and get a good idea about the extent of damage on the island, reports. He added that the Red Cross shelters on Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius are overcrowded with people who fled from the hurricane. 

Irma caused no fatalities on the island of Saba, though it did cause damage, governor Jonathan Johnson said to Curacao radio station Dolfijn FM. The roofs of some houses were blown away and a number of trees were destroyed. "There is no power, but we are working on it. Phone traffic and internet traffic were quickly restored", he said. He described the hurricane as very strong. "It sounded like a train was passing for hours." According to Johnson, the residents of the island immediately got to work cleaning up.

Details about victims on Sint Eustatius are not available as yet. There too Irma caused large amounts of damage. "Trees lying on the road and electric poles blown away. It doesn't look good", director Walter Hellebrand of Monumentenzorg on Sint Eustatius said to Curacao radio station Paradise FM. Houses were damaged by falling trees, there is no electricity and telephone traffic was disrupted. 

A spokesperson for the Dutch Navy in the Caribbean told the Telegraaf that Sint Eustatius and Saba were hit hard by the hurricane, but Sint Maarten sustained the most damage. "Containers are spread across the port, some even in the sea. Many houses don't have roofs anymore and boats are no longer in the water but spread over the quays."

Soldiers and other Defense personnel are on all three islands to provide assistance. On Sint Maarten, their first order of business is to try and restore public life on the island as soon as possible. "This is our highest priority", Lieutenant at sea Egbert Stoel said to NOS. The ship Zr.Ms Pelican is on its way to the island "We will try to unlock the airport as soon as possible so that additional resources can be taken to the island. On board the Pelican we have vehicles, a bulldozer and military units that can help with that."

According to Stoel, the airport and harbor are both unreachable at the moment. Government buildings are unavailable and communication is very difficult. He has no view on any victims. "We are now busy mapping the island and trying to get an image on what is necessary for the reconstruction."

Tropical storm Jose also turned into a hurricane and is on the way to the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center reported, according to Reuters. It is still unclear how strong this hurricane will be and whether it will actually reach the Dutch Antilles. But if it does, the expectation is that this will happen during the course of Saturday. "That's a point of concern, because it limits our possibilities", Stoel said.