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French President visits Caribbean island flattened by Irma

14 September 2017

A mother picking up her daughter, a survivor who flew to Paris on Monday, said government help was nonexistent on St. Martin.

He will first visit Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, on Tuesday morning before heading to the French-Dutch island of St. Martin to meet with residents, and then to St. Barts.

Both France and the Netherlands are rushing in logistical support, as well as hundreds of extra police to tackle looting.

In a statement on Friday, the Royal House said the monarch, while in Curacao will assess "whether and when it is possible to visit St Maarten" and nearby Dutch territories of Saba and St Eustatius - islands that were not as severely damaged by the storm.

The president is also being accompanied by doctors and experts who will be in charge of evaluating the damage.

He said food supplies were being provided by 1,500 helpers on the ground in the West Indies, with the number rising to 2,000 over the coming days.

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A former UK EU representative for the government of Anguilla, Dorothea Hodge, told The Guardian that "It's absolutely disgraceful that it has taken the whole day for Priti Patel [Development Secretary] to respond to the worst hurricane we have seen in a British territory since the 1920s".

"We're as French as anyone".

Many on St Martin, an island which is divided between France and The Netherlands and known for its vibrant nightlife and pristine beaches, were wondering where to go.

"I am here to talk about reconstruction", he said, according to CNN. "We are completely mobilized to rescue, to accompany and to rebuild".

European countries and the United States have sent troops to deliver aid and provide security after the storm toppled homes and hospitals, but locals and tourists short of food or shelter say help was slow to arrive.

On the USA mainland, it has been linked to 12 deaths since the weekend. "There are only whites on the boat".

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"Here at the gates (to the airport) they don't know anything", Brigitte van der Posch, 46, told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, adding that the evacuation was "chaotic". Government spokesman Christophe Castaner, meanwhile, said he understood the islanders' frustration but blamed the criticisms in part on the "emotional shock, an impact that's extremely hard psychologically".

Long queues formed Monday at the airport on the Dutch side of the island as people waited to be evacuated.

French aid includes helicopters, engineering equipment, medical supplies and a million litres (265,000 gallons) of water, as the three water-treatment plants will be knocked out for months.

Schools are made a priority in the French aid plan. "There is a unusual mood at the moment in Saint-Martin, so we need to think about public order". Another four people were killed on St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin, the Dutch government reported Sunday.

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French President visits Caribbean island flattened by Irma