Relief in Caribbean, pounded by Irma, as Hurricane Jose veers away

Hurricane Irma's Caribbean destruction

French President Emmanuel Macron has traveled to the French Caribbean Island, St. Martin, recently hammered by Hurricane Irma.

Macron was eventually heading to the French-Dutch island of St. Martin, where 10 people were killed on the French side and four on the Dutch, to meet with residents.

On the southern Dutch half of the island, 70 percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed in the storm, officials said.

The monster storm ripped through the two islands, leaving most of the 80,000 inhabitants homeless and causing crippling shortages of essentials. The U.S. Embassy sustained some damage.

The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Monday unveiled the government's reconstruction plan for the islands.

In a news conference in the Pointe-a-Pitre airport, Macron said the government's "top priority" is to help island residents return to normal life.

Like the French and Dutch governments, Britain has also faced criticism for failing to anticipate the disaster with an editorial in The Telegraph newspaper last week calling the response "appallingly slow".

"He needs to come to look around, so that he realises the horror here", one local on St Martin, Peggy Brun, told AFP.

Jose passed 135 kilometres (80 miles) north of Saint Barts, a haven for the rich and famous formally called Saint Barthelemy whose celebrity visitors have included Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow.

About 1,500 French troops, police and emergency workers were on the ground to help islanders, and 500 others were expected to arrive in the coming days, according to French authorities.

The Dutch Red Cross said there were still more than 200 people listed as missing on St. Maarten, but with communications still extremely spotty a week after the storm hit it wasn't immediately clear how many were simply without cell service and unable to let friends and family know they had survived. Most of the 10 people killed by Irma lived on French territories there.

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.

Meteorologists say heavy rain squalls spawning tornadoes are hitting South Florida part of Hurricane Irma's leading edge.

The French energy group EDF said it would send 140 tonnes of electrical equipment including generators and pumps to the islands from nearby Guadeloupe as soon as conditions permit.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will be visiting the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla to see the relief effort firsthand. "The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks", he said.

There are just under 500 troops now in the region, made up of marines, engineers, medics and specialists, including Army and Royal Air Force personnel, the Foreign Office said.

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