Hurricane Jose: Top alert for St Martin, St Barts

PARIS, France – France's meteorological agency on Saturday, September 9, issued its highest warning for the Caribbean islands of St Martin and St Barts as Hurricane Jose bore down, 3 days after they were hit by Hurricane Irma.

The alert warned of a "dangerous event of exceptional intensity," as the Category Four storm passed at a distance of around 100 kilometers (60 miles).

The islands could expect winds that could reach 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, up to 100 millimeters (four inches) of rain and waves of between 6 to 8 meters (19 to 26 feet), forecasters said.

St Barts is a French overseas territory, as is the French part of St Martin, which is divided between France and the Netherlands.

Twelve people were killed on the two islands by Hurricane Irma, thousands of buildings were flattened and the authorities are struggling to control looting.

President Emmanuel Macron scheduled a top-level meeting in Paris late Saturday to review the situation, especially regarding security, the president's office told Agence France-Presse.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Defense Minister Florence Parly and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb were scheduled to take part.

The French interior ministry said 410 gendarmes and 80 police have been deployed, with 150 more gendarmes set to arrive after the hurricane leaves the area on Sunday, September 10.

Eleven people have been arrested for theft, it said.

The French state-owned reinsurer CCR on Saturday estimated the damage at 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion).

All air and sea links with the two islands have been cut.

Irma is now heading for Florida, where a total of 6.3 million people have been ordered to evacuate, according to state authorities. – Rappler.com