Relief in Caribbean, pounded by Irma, as Hurricane Jose veers away
Caribbean island residents emerged from bunkers and shelters to begin surveying and cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Irma on Sunday as the trailing Hurricane Jose passed farther north of the islands than expected.
The French Caribbean territories of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, devastated days earlier by Irma, had been on lockdown overnight for the second hurricane.
On Sunday morning, the French meteorological service reduced the alert from its top level of violet to yellow, saying Jose was now more than 135km north-northwest of Saint Martin.
The centre of the hurricane had passed 120km out from the island, the service said earlier, and as a result “the effects on the territory are decidedly less serious.”
Barbuda, an island southwest of Saint Barthelemy that was razed by Hurricane Irma last week, also was passed by Jose. Most of the island’s 1,800 residents had been evacuated after Irma to the nearby island of Antigua.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of the twin-island nation, said 95 per cent of the buildings on Barbuda had been reduced to rubble. One person was killed.
French authorities said hundreds of police and army reinforcements will be sent to Saint Martin. Residents express anger over a lack of security and reports of widespread looting.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb wrote on Twitter that authorities were carrying out a “systematic reconnaissance to identify the population’s most urgent needs.”
Government spokesman Chrstophe Castaner acknowledged that a “sense of insecurity” was “legitimate and real.”
But he hit back at opposition figures of the left and right who accused authorities of failing to foresee the crisis, saying they were “instrumentalizing suffering.”
In the US Virgin Islands, farther west, Saint Thomas resident Nate Fifer said the majority of houses have been destroyed.
“Most of the cars are without windows and a lot of people lost their roofs,” Fifer, a charter boat captain, said.
“People are rallying together to help people find a place to sleep,” Fifer said.
In Cuba, rows of houses lost their roofs and trees were uprooted in severe flooding in Caibarien.
Damage to homes, government offices and road infrastructure, as well as flooding and fallen poles, were reported on the northeastern coast of the island, where Hurricane Irma hit with winds of 155mph, Cuba’s official newspaper Granma reported.
Meanwhile, more than 50 police officers left the United Kingdom for the British Virgin Islands on Sunday to help local authorities with policing and recovery after Hurricane Irma.
The UK Defence Ministry deployed about 500 troops to the region, adding to the 120 already stationed in the British Virgin Islands and providing relief to people whose homes were destroyed, the Press Association reported.
Those deployed to assist with recovery efforts include marines, engineers and a number of medics and specialists, the ministry said.