St Martin reportedly on verge of 'civil war' after Irma
Citizens and some news outlets are reporting that the French territory of St Martin is on the verge of a civil war as organised gangs armed with machetes raid stores and homes, leaving some residents are in fear for their lives.
The island, which suffered widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, remains difficult to reach since the airport and marinas were significantly damaged.
Video footage of one resident went viral on Sunday after she hinted that there are more deaths than the media is reporting. She begged for residents to be evacuated from the violence and looting.
Synopsis of video:
"Hi everyone – I’ve lived in St Martin for more than 20 years… No one fully realizes what’s going on right now - it’s the apocalypse here.
The French government is doing nothing – they’re just going on TV, saying they are doing this or that but nothing is being done. The police are not well trained…they haven’t lifted a finger to help us out of this mess. Stop showing us footage of destruction here – we know that already… come help us!
We want to get out of St Martin! We cannot stay here! People are being killed!
We pay our taxes and follow all the rules… Come get us! We cannot stay here! You have to evacuate the people that are here.
We are part of France so get off your butts, stop talking rubbish on television – there are not 10 deaths, there are thousands of deaths!... So get off your butts and come help us!"
News site RCI reported on Saturday that the situation is serious:
“It is now confirmed on the basis of several testimonies, that it is the biggest chaos in St-Martin on the security level. To the plundering are added many other facts, much more serious consequence of taking possession of the street and the districts by organised gangs.”
The news site reported that gangs of people armed with cutlasses and knives are patrolling the streets and women are at high risk of being attacked or raped.
The gangs are also pillaging homes believed to be abandoned.
“The population seems to be left to its own devices, obliged to organise itself as it can to defend itself against thieves,” Thierry Fundere reported.
On Friday, Guadeloupe resident Morgane Lignières shared a social media post claiming that people were being attacked and that there was a shortage of food and water on the island of St Martin.
“It's a disaster what happens in Saint Martin... There's a civil war... people getting beaten up to get a drop of water.”
“The Army and law enforcement are completely out of date... it shoots everywhere, people fight everywhere to pick up the smallest things: for example, gasoline for groups…everyone is getting looted and no longer have food and drink... all that trying To avoid gunfire from all sides!”
“People walk around wearing hoods in cars and armed!! I beg you... help us... We've never seen this... it's a total knockout. Families with children have had to move from Anse de Sable, Terre Basses, Baie Nettle, Grand Case, Marigot.... it's a horror scene.”
Meanwhile, St Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, has reportedly evacuated 1,200 people so far and has also had reports of looting and robberies.
A report by NBC News said 1,200 Americans were airlifted off the island amid reports of violence and looting.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a media briefing that the “situation is serious” and that more armed forces have been deployed to restore order.