Hurricane Irma Batters St. Maarten

Hurricane Irma pummeled St. Maarten/St. Martin on Wednesday as it tore through the Caribbean toward the continental U.S.

At least 10 people died, according to unofficial reports.

Hurricane Irma pummeled St. Maarten/St. Martin and other northern Caribbean islands Wednesday as it tore a disastrous path through the Atlantic toward the continental U.S. Here, a woman treads through the wreckage of Cay Bay, a largely low-income community, after the storm had passed. Local officials instituted a curfew to little effect. (D.A. Robin/Special to the Democrat)

It was the most destructive hurricane to hit St. Maarten since
Hurricane Luis, in 1995. Recovery efforts began nearly immediately with individuals working to clear their neighborhoods of debris from the storm.

Debris, including scalped roofs, shattered utility poles and broken
walls, littered the streets, blocking many major streets throughout
the island. The damage was summed up sort of like this: winds of
intensity speeds ripped roofs of galvanized zinc sheets and tossed them about. These sheets became projectiles that shattered panes of glass in cars and buildings. Exposed houses, many made of thin sheets of plywood and thicker lumber beams, were then torn apart from the inside and became more damage-dealing projectiles. Poles fell under the ravenous gusts. Low-lying areas flooded. Sheets of zinc roofing, which could arguably have outnumbered any other type of debris, were wrapped around tree trunks and utility poles and columns of buildings.

Hurricane Irma ravaged St. Maarten/St. Martin Wednesday. Even amidst the looting of damage buildings, people showed up to support their community. Here, this group of men voluntarily clears St. Maarten’s Airport Road of debris.

A contingent of Dutch Marines were summoned to the island to help. French military servicemen also helped the recovery efforts there.

Communications towers folded under the heavy winds, which exceeded 185 mph. The island was without power, running water and cell phone/internet service from late Tuesday/early Wednesday.

The storm beached more than one dozen boats that were in
Simpson Bay Lagoon, including a few that had been abandoned from
some reports as long ago as the last hurricane.

Hurricane Irma caused millions of dollars in damages to vehicles and other property when it passed St. Maarten/St. Martin Wednesday. It also beached boats in and around the island, including this boat that was driven to shore on the Great Bay Beach Promenade, known colloquially as the Boardwalk, a popular strip of shops and restaurants frequented by guests and residents alike.

On French St. Martin, several districts were obliterated, according
to residents who had seen the destruction and shared their
observations.

Looting began within hours of the storm’s passing.

Looting began soon after Hurricane Irma passed St. Maarten/St. Martin Wednesday. Here, men and women scavenge sheets, bedspreads, comforters and pillows from the crumbled remains of US Laundry, a major facility that handled many cleaning contracts for resorts on the island.

Residents carried away cases of water, cans of juices, bags of rice
and other food in shopping carts and on dollies throughout
Wednesday and Thursday. Some residents stole refrigerators and
stoves and televisions and Styrofoam food containers and carried them  through the streets on the backs of pickup trucks and on dollies near  police officers, who were largely powerless to stop them.

Hurricane Irma pummeled St. Maarten/St. Martin and other northern Caribbean islands Wednesday as it tore a disastrous path through the Atlantic toward the continental U.S. Here, a man picks apart the office of a warehouse after the storm had passed. Local officials instituted a curfew to little effect. (D.A. Robin/Special to the Democrat)

One officer put it like this, “If we arrest everybody who is looting,
where we going to put them?”

He was hinting at the already limited space in the island’s police
holding cells and prisons. A curfew preventing non-essential travel
went totally ignored for more than 24 hours after the storm as
residents drove through the island in the battered remnants of their
cars that had lost windshields, mirrors and bumpers, and had
sustained other physical or mechanical damage.

At least two of the island’s premier hotels in Maho and Great Bay,
both under the Sonesta resort brands, were pulverized.

Hurricane Irma caused millions of dollars in damages to vehicles and other property when it passed St. Maarten/St. Martin Wednesday. The storm also ravaged some of the island’s resorts and the port. Here, men cross the threshold in the ruins of Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, one of the island’s premier properties.

 

Staff worked all day Thursday to evacuate guests from the remnants of the Sonesta Maho Resort and its ultra-exclusive sister property, Ocean Point.

On Wednesday, Hurricane Irma tore away huge chunks from Sonesta Maho Resort, one of the island’s premier hotels, and battered rooms, shattering glass, crumbling walls and displacing guests. Resort staff evacuated guests throughout Thursday, planning to fly many off the island in the coming days.

The hurricane peeled aluminum sheets from the island’s multi-million dollar Princess Juliana International Airport.

Hurricane Irma peeled aluminum sheets from the island’s multi-million-dollar Princess Juliana International Airport. That and the port facilities are the pride of the island and responsible for ferrying the more than one million guests who visit the island each year.

Residents of Dutch St. Maarten (colloquially known as “Dutch side”)
railed against government officials for their plans to keep hurricane
shelters closed until after the storm. It wasn’t until about 1 p.m.
Tuesday, when Prime Minister William Marlin addressed the island, most residents learned that decision had been reversed, and the shelters would have been opened from 4 p.m. that afternoon. French side residents had been allowed to evacuate to their various shelters throughout the day.

Hurricane Irma destroyed many buildings on St. Maarten/St. Martin during its passing on Wednesday. Here, residents and guests look at the damaged remains of the Casino Royale in the Maho district, which was known for its bars, shops, resort and said casino.

St. Maarten runs on tourism. The island boasts of more than 1 million visitors each year, by cruise ship alone. Resorts on the island
employee thousands of locals and immigrants. These resorts often
partner with or own casinos, bars, lounges and other entertainment
spots meant to draw guests. Tens of millions of dollars exchange hands during the tourism high season between December and May.

On Wednesday, Hurricane Irma tore away huge chunks from Sonesta Maho Resort, one of the island’s premier hotels, and battered rooms, shattering glass, crumbling walls and displacing guests. Resort staff evacuated guests throughout Thursday, planning to fly many off the island in the coming days.

 

Click here to see a complete gallery of photos from the aftermath of the storm.

One thought on “Hurricane Irma Batters St. Maarten”

  1. I am so sorry for this devastation. We share it here in Tallahassee, Florida but nothing like the devastation captured in these photos. If it weren’t for these photos we here on the mainland would have no idea what things were really like there. My prayers go out to the people of St. Maarten.

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