French leader to go to hurricane-hit St. Martin


Before the hurricanes, St. Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport was one of the former Dutch colony's major tourist draws thanks to a runway that ended just a few meters (yards) from the sandy crescent of Maho Beach, where people could stand and watch as arriving jets skimmed low over their heads.

At least 17 people across the Caribbean have been killed by Hurricane Irma.

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.

But he added there had been "no new damage" caused by Hurricane Jose, which skirted the islands far to the north late Saturday.

The islands' woes increased as the airport on St. Barts was closed, and those in Anguilla and St. Martin were open only to the military, rescue crews and aid organizations. "There's nothing there", said Manon Brunet-Vita, 27, as she walked through Grand-Case.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner, speaking Sunday with Europe1-CNews-Les Echos, said he "perfectly (understood) the anger" of residents after Hurricane Irma tore through the islands, killing nine people, destroying houses and cutting off the water supply.

It was not until September 3-4 that the likely path of the hurricane was known.

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Castaner said many islanders were suffering from "emotional shock, an impact that's extremely hard psychologically".

Hotel Mercure on Saint Martin during the passage of Hurricane Irma. Crews with heavy equipment and chain saws were clearing the roads of debris. That would bring the total number of security personnel to 550.

Macron held emergency meetings Saturday and Sunday about Irma and its successor, Jose, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government's support for Irma's victims isn't "empty words".

French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin reported that "pillaging took place right in front of us" during a trip she made on Thursday to St Martin, where a majority of the 80,000 inhabitants have lost their homes. He praised the hundreds of police and soldiers sent in, saying they ended the looting.

Irma has killed more than 20 people across the Caribbean. French authorities said some 1,105 recovery workers were deployed on St. Martin and St. Barts.

"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 reporters. "Other countries with tourists - the Canadians, the Americans - don't have that".

Earlier, the Dutch military evacuated residents from the island, including children, back to the Netherlands.