Nine people were killed by Hurricane Luis on St. Martin, and dozens are missing, a French official said Wednesday in the first word from the tiny, storm-ravaged Caribbean island.
That raised the death toll to 13 in one of the most powerful storms to hit the Caribbean this century, and surpassed the 10 killed in the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Luis moved away from the Caribbean on Wednesday afternoon after skirting Puerto Rico. Forecasters had expected the island to feel the storm’s full fury, but it escaped with only minor damage - a few blown-off roofs, downed power lines and some flooding.
Another 1,000 people are homeless on St. Martin, an island of 50,000 people split between French and Dutch territories, said Michel Diessenbacher, the French representative on Guadeloupe, which governs St. Martin’s French portion.
“There was so much damage that it’s impossible to make an assessment,” Diessenbacher said.
St. Martin is northwest of Antigua, which authorities had believed suffered the worst damage from Luis.
On other islands, two people were drowned by high seas in Guadeloupe and Dominica. Two died in storm-related accidents in Puerto Rico - a man killed by a downed power cable Tuesday, and another who fell from a roof Monday as he removed an antenna to protect it.
Diessenbacher said he didn’t know the nationalities of the hurricane victims on St. Martin, and couldn’t even say how many people were missing because the storm cut off telephones. Some of the missing were believed to have been aboard boats found capsized on beaches.