Hurricane Irma: American woman trapped in St. Martin says “We just need to go home”

Last Updated Sep 9, 2017 6:41 PM EDT

A New York City woman who was on Caribbean island of St. Martin during Hurricane Irma told CBSN says she and her friends are now trapped without a way to get off the island. 

“We are just asking that not just for ourselves — please, please call your local electives, call your assemblymen, call your senators, call your embassies and tell them you have citizens who are stranded here, Anguilla, St. Bart’s and we just need to go home,” Tiffany Bender told CBSN.

Bender and three of her friends were staying at an Airbnb, but the the hosts just “told us to cross our fingers when we asked her about the best practices for the storm.” She said they contacted the embassy, who gave them a list of hotels that still had power. She said that at the Airbnb they had left, the roof caved in from the storm.

“One of the hotels that we could have went to were actually across the street is completely wiped away,” Bender said. “Every single floor was completely dismantled, so it’s really luck of the draw that we picked the hotel that we did.”

She described the conditions at the hotel when Irma hit. She said the storm hit at about 2 a.m., and at 4 a.m., they realized the 7th floor of the hotel was flooded. 

“From the ceiling, it was coming from the elevator, and at that point we had packed emergency bags with our passports and necessities and we picked up our emergency bags and ran into the staircase where other guests were,” Bender said. “Again, we were on the 7th floor and the water rose to about the 2nd floor, and at that point we had realized that the roof had come off. Luckily at that time we were going through the eye of the storm so we kind of had this lull moment where maintenance worked as quickly as they could to fix a new roof, where 45 minutes later we had to pass through that second part of the storm and it was just absolutely terrifying.”

In the days since the storm hit, Bender said the hotel has done a “fantastic job of keeping us safe” but the hotel’s manager had warned them of looting and assaults in rooms with women. “We didn’t have a window in our room, and the locks were broke, so we have been putting chairs under the door and so at that point we made the decision to kind of pack up and head for shelter at the American University.”

She said there is a 24-hour curfew in place, and they were told if they go out “you will be shot or detained ……

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