after irma: the decisive first days

/ Aurélien Morissard

"We caulked in the bathroom like we could with my family. We took mattresses to protect ourselves as best we could. My wife and kids in the bathtub. I could even see the concrete walls around me shaking and coming and going," says Mister Prepognot as a rescue team arrives for a first reconnaissance mission. I'll go with them.

During the night of September 5-6,2017, the island of Saint-Martin (Antilles) was on the trajectory of the most devastating hurricane in the islands of the North West Indies. Her name : Irma. A few days later, I was on the plane with the rescuers sent to help the population after Irma's murderous passage. I remember that the closer we got to St. Martin, the more frightened our eyes were seing the result of the violent winds. Just a foretaste of what we were really going to observe on the island. During our descent on the tarmac, the smell of death welcomes us. Five days already since Irma did her work. We all hope it comes from animals.

The victims were most often left to fend for themselves during the first few days because French army (land, air and navy), police, civil security and a lot of associations were not able to intervene until 8 September, after the passage of a second hurricane, José, near the island.

What did Irma leave behind? A shattered landscape. You have to close your eyes to remember the heavenly beaches that Saint Martin offered to its inhabitants but also to its tourists. Should we remember that tourism - which is usually densely populated from October to May - is the island's biggest economic resource? If the hurricane's impact on visitors is such that visitors will flee, it could impact employment and household daily life in the coming months. One thing is certain, after the damage caused by Irma, St. Martin will need time to heal his wounds and bounce back.


french version