At least 22 killed as Hurricane Irma smashes through string of Caribbean islands on its way to US state of Florida.
President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild France’s Caribbean territories in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s widespread destruction.
Visiting French-controlled Saint Martin on Tuesday, Macron said the island must be rebuilt as a “model” to withstand future weather patterns.
“I don’t want to rebuild Saint Martin as it was … We have seen there are many homes that were built too precariously, with fragile infrastructure. The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks,” he said.
At least 14 people died, and more than 200 went missing after Irma hit the island on September 6, according to the Netherlands Red Cross.
Saint Martin is divided between French and Dutch sovereignty.
A number of residents remain without power and mobile service following the Category 5 storm.
Macron acknowledged the anger felt by some on the island and other affected French-controlled Caribbean territories – including Guadeloupe and St Barts – over his government’s response to the disaster.
“They are impatient for answers, and some are very, very angry. The anger is legitimate because it is a result of the fear they have faced and of being very fatigued,” he said.
“It is certain that some want to leave, and we will help them in that effort.”
Macron outlined a plan to distribute drinking water, food and medical help during his visit, claiming half of the island’s mobile reception had been restored and that all means of “essential communication” would be re-established within a week.
A centre to administer requests by residents seeking financial help is due to be established by Monday, he said.