Hurricane Irma leaves trail of devastation on Barbuda island

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Strung like beads along the northeast edge of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands are tiny, remote and attractive, with azure waters and ocean breezes drawing tourists from around the world.

"What I see are people coming who are hungry, who are exhausted, who are thirsty and need help", said the Rev. Jeff Neevel, the pastor of the St. Thomas Reformed Church in the Virgin Islands capital, Charlotte Amalie.

Some 40,000 people live on the French side of St. Martin, and about the same number on the Dutch side.

She collapsed into a small plastic chair that has served as a makeshift bed since Irma ripped the roof off her home as it pummeled St. Martin as a Category 5 storm.

Despite Irma's destruction, many islanders counted their blessings as Hurricane Jose, which followed on the super-storm's heels, spared them further disaster. Almost 160 were evacuated on Friday and approximately 700 more on Saturday.

"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. The U.S. Virgin Islands were also hard hit. The Norwegian Sky cruise ship was due to arrive Tuesday and take its charges to Miami.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Monday unveiled the government's reconstruction plan for the islands. He will finish off his trip on the nearby island of St. Barts.

The Dutch government has sent in troops to the Dutch side of St. Martin after reports of widespread looting and robberies have emerged. The electricity supply has also been badly hit, authorities said.

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. St. Croix, the most populated of the islands in the chain, escaped relatively unscathed because its location some 45 miles to the south spared it a direct hit.

France's Caisse Centrale de Reassurance, a state-owned reinsurance group, said Irma would go down as one of the most damaging disasters in decades on French territory.

Two C-130 transport planes loaded with aid including food, water, tents and building materials landed in Sint Maarten on Sunday, and the Dutch Navy said mass distribution would begin on Monday.

Ports in St. John, St. Thomas and elsewhere remained closed. A tanker with 350 tons of fresh water was also on its way.

At a news conference in the Pointe-a-Pitre airport before departing for St. Martin, Macron said the government's "top priority" was to help island residents return to normal life. "You could see there was not much left", Larry Brown, a part-time resident, said as he waited in Puerto Rico for a flight back to his home in southwestern Florida to see what damage awaited him there.

"The UK government is doing everything it possibly can to help those affected by the hurricane", he said.

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

The Dutch Red Cross has raised RM16m for the devastated islands in under a week. We have seen there are many homes that were built too precariously, with fragile infrastructure.



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