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Caribbean seeks assistance amid looting after Hurricane Irma

By
Danielle Haynes
Relief materials and supplies are offloaded from the French Navy Ventose frigate by officers in the French overseas island of St. Martin, France, on Sunday. Hurricane Irma was declared the most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean, and left a path of destruction in the Caribbean. Photo by Guillaume Cabre/EPA
Relief materials and supplies are offloaded from the French Navy Ventose frigate by officers in the French overseas island of St. Martin, France, on Sunday. Hurricane Irma was declared the most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean, and left a path of destruction in the Caribbean. Photo by Guillaume Cabre/EPA

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Days after Hurricane Irma destroyed parts of the Caribbean, residents throughout the island nations say they're in need of assistance amid reports of lack of food, shelter and in some cases violence.

In the French-controlled part of the island of St. Martin, some residents said food scarcity has led to looting at stores and some violence.

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"All the food is gone now," Jacques Charbonnier, told The New York Times on Sunday. "People are fighting in the streets for what is left."

Some armed looters even took electronics, appliances and vehicles.

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"There was some looting in the first few days, but the Dutch marines and police are on the street to prevent it," said Paul De Windt, publisher of a newspaper on the island. "Some people steal luxury things and booze, but a lot of people are stealing water and biscuits."

The U.S. State Department evacuated more than 1,200 Americans from the Dutch-controlled side of St. Maarten to Puerto Rico.

Some told ABC News about a bank robbery they observed as well as a group of men with "long swords" who came to their hotel. Others said they felt abandoned by hotel staff and that looters had taken purses from guests.

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France and the Netherlands, which jointly administer St. Martin, said they sent troops to the island to respond to reports of crime. They also were transporting aid to the region. French President Emmanuel Macron said he planned to travel to the island Tuesday.

On the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Stacey Alvarado described those left behind in the storm as "roaming like zombies."

"They don't know what to do. The island was wiped out. It's like the walking dead down there," she told The Washington Post.

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Blogger Jenn Manes called on the U.S. government for help, saying the island needed military assistance.

"We need help," she wrote.

At least two dozen people were killed as Irma, then a Category 5 storm, made its way across the Caribbean.

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Before Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning, the hurricane caused more than $10 billion in damage in several locations throughout the Caribbean, disaster risk experts said.

Thousands were left without homes.

The hurricane struck land as a Category 5 storm Wednesday in Barbuda, and then passed through St. Martin and Anguilla. Damage was limited in Puerto Rico, although much of the population of 3.4 million lost electrical power and at least 56,000 were without water.

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Residents in the U.S. territory were offering assistance to other, more severely damaged islands in the region. They donated clothes, water and first aid supplies to people on St. Thomas.

Barbuda, an island which forms the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was the first island hit by the hurricane, and lost about 95 percent of its buildings, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Thursday.

Communication to the many of the islands was lost in the storm, and damage assessments are slow.

"We can't yet assess the full extent of damage, but we expect that the Red Cross will be delivering extensive support to many thousands over the coming weeks and months," commented Walter Cotte, Red Cross regional director.

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