European leaders step up Irma relief effort in Caribbean

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to travel to British territories damaged by Hurricane Irma

The French government is defending its handling of hurricane preparations in the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, after being criticized by opponents for not preparing enough and by locals who felt abandoned by authorities amid the devastation.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Guadeloupe on Tuesday before travelling on to Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy to inspect storm damage and relief operations as his government comes under fire for its handling of Hurricane Irma.

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. "The presidential Airbus will bring equipment and basic necessities", Collomb wrote in his official Twitter blog.

The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma's winds dropped from 125 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour, but that's likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.

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.

The humanitarian organization said 90 percent of buildings on the Dutch territory were damaged and a third destroyed as Irma roared across the island it shares with French St Martin. "We've gotten 800 people out so far from St. John and St. Thomas".

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Evacuees arriving in the United States from St. Martin spoke of their horror as the hurricane passed overhead and the hard cleanup that has followed.

Soudiagom and other witnesses told Guadeloupe 1ere that the boat they took Friday carried tourists, including Americans, to safety but left many St. Martin residents behind, including needy mothers and children.

At least three deaths were reported on the island.

The chairmen of the all-party Foreign Affairs and Development Select Committees, Tom Tugendhat and Stephen Twigg, supported Hodge's comments said that experts and many in the area had been critical of the overall level of relief.

The remainder of the island is administered by France.

However as Caribbean leaders met to discuss the situation in the United Kingdom there was loud criticism of Britain's response to Irma. Many islands were still assessing the damage, even as they prepared for the arrival of another major storm, Hurricane Jose.

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"We have ordered one of the largest air lifts [of aid] since World War II", Macron said upon arriving on the storm-hit island.

Dutch Maj. Gen. Richard Oppelaar said 200 tons of aid had been delivered, while 750 people have been evacuated from Sint Maarten.

He toured Sint Maarten, the Dutch section of the island, on Monday, before meeting residents on Saba island Tuesday. Macron is in the French-Dutch island of St. Martin, where 10 people were killed on the French side and four on the Dutch after the passage of Hurricane Irma.

It is common practice for tourists to be evacuated first from disaster zones for practical reasons, because they have access to fewer resources at a hotel.

"In my eyes, Irma is for the French Antilles what Hurricane Katrina was for Louisiana in the USA — an exposer of racial and social inequalities", the group's spokesman, Louis-Georges Tin, told The Associated Press.

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