Latin America & Caribbean

Hurricane Irma: St Martin man held for huge looting hoard

A soldier of the French Gendarmerie chases alleged looters as they run past the devastation from Hurricane Irma on the island of St Martin (08 September 2017) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Alleged looters in St Martin - theft from shops and homes was widespread in the aftermath of the storm

A man has been arrested on the Caribbean island of St Martin for amassing a huge stockpile of goods looted in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Prosecutors told French media the man is accused of stealing goods worth thousands of dollars.

His hoard included hi-fi equipment, household appliances and clothes.

Hurricane Irma caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, leaving at least 40 people dead.

It hit St Martin on 6 September as a category five hurricane, the highest possible level for such a storm.

The island suffered enormous damage, with rooftops shredded, boats ripped to pieces and electricity pylons overturned. Its airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, was seriously damaged, as was its main harbour.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Much of St Martin was razed to the ground when Irma struck
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Netherlands deployed troops to patrol the streets of St Martin in the aftermath of the storm

There have been shortages of drinking water and fuel and most of the island's 80,000 residents lost their homes.

Both France and The Netherlands - who jointly administer the island - deployed armed forces to contain "serious" post-storm looting after Irma struck earlier this month.

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Media captionBefore and after: Stills and footage show St Martin then and now

Many of the items recovered from the suspected looter's hoard - that was about 10 cubic metres (353 cubic feet) in size - have been returned to their legitimate owners, prosecutors say. So far about 80 people have been arrested for looting.

Earlier this month Annick Girardin, minister for France's overseas territories, described "scenes of pillaging" on the island, urging police to restore order and provide emergency care for victims.

She described "a strange mood" on St Martin in the aftermath of the storm, with looting taking place "right there in front of my eyes".

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