French President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency meeting at the Elysée Palace on Saturday to set up urgent aid to the French Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy and the Franco-Dutch isle of St. Martin, both devastated by Hurricane Irma.
The French government said that 95% of St. Martin had been destroyed. The number of victims is expected to rise. On Saturday afternoon, U.S. President Trump telephoned Macron to express his condolences for the “devastation and human loss.”
Both islands were placed on red alert Friday evening as a second storm, Hurricane José, approached and threatened to paralyze all air and sea traffic, which have been suspended.
Once a powerful hurricane, Irma is now officially a tropical depression.
In what it said was its last advisory on the storm, the National Hurricane Center announced the downgrade at 11 p.m. East Coast time. The storm was centered five miles south of Columbus, Ga., with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, and moving northwest at 15 mph.
"All storm surge warnings and tropical storm warnings have been discontinued," the advisory said.
But that relief was short-lived for some. When they tried to park Friday, they found many of the spots in the covered campus garage were filled with sparkling new cars from Napleton Infiniti, a dealership in Tallahassee.
Hurricane Irma battered the Florida Keys over the weekend, but the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, its staffers and its 54 six-toed cats were unharmed by the storm, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Jacque Sands, general manager of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, told the newspaper that the house was not severely damaged, and that the museum's 10 employees and the dozens of polydactyl felines that populate the property were safe.
The museum's staff made headlines after announcing that it wouldn't heed orders to evacuate the Keys, thought to be particularly vulnerable to Irma's wind and rain.
Jacksonville may have been spared the most ferocious winds of Tropical Storm Irma, but the torrential rains and storm surge have swelled the St. Johns River to historically high levels and inundated low-lying areas of the city.
Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security advisor, called it some of the worst flooding to hit the city in 100 years.
“Get out NOW,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office warned people in evacuation zones. It advised those who needed help escaping flooded homes to visibly display something white – a shirt or a pillowcase.
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit the Caribbean on Tuesday in an effort to persuade locals on the Hurricane Irma-devastated islands of St. Martin and St. Barts that Paris has not abandoned them.
Macron, whose popularity has plummeted at home, is taking flak from political opponents and islanders on the French territories for what they consider to have been inadequate hurricane preparations and a slow response to the mass destruction of homes and infrastructure.
He was traveling to St. Martin, a Franco-Dutch island, on an overnight flight aboard an Airbus carrying aid and emergency supplies. During his whistle-stop visit, he is also expected to travel to St. Barts, a French territory 20 miles to the southeast.