Residents of St. Martin, and elsewhere in the region, spoke about a general disintegration of law and order as survivors struggled in the face of severe food and water shortages, and the absence of electricity and phone service.
As reports of increasing desperation continued to emerge from the region over the weekend, governments in Britain, France and the Netherlands, which oversee territories in the region, stepped up their response. They defended themselves against criticism that their reaction had been too slow, and insufficient. Both the French and Dutch governments said they were sending in extra troops to restore order, along with the aid that was being airlifted into the region.
After an emergency meeting with his government on Sunday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said he would travel on Tuesday to St. Martin, an overseas French territory. Mr. Macron also announced late on Saturday that he would double France’s troop deployment to the region, to 2,200 from 1,100; officials say the increase is in part a response to the mayhem on St. Martin.
St. Maarten, the Dutch territorial side of the island, which uses a different spelling, has also experienced widespread looting of shops, though the problem was reported to have subsided by Sunday, though not completely.
“There was some looting in the first few days, but the Dutch marines and police are on the street to prevent it,” Paul De Windt, publisher of The Daily Herald, a newspaper in St. Maarten, said Sunday. “Some people steal luxury things and booze, but a lot of people are stealing water and biscuits.”
More than 265 Dutch military personnel have been deployed to St. Maarten, and another 250 are expected to be sent to the region in the next few days to help maintain order and assist with relief efforts, the Dutch government said. In addition, 90 police officers have been flown in from Curaçao, another Dutch territory.
The storm delivered a direct hit on the region starting Wednesday, destroying airports and ports, knocking out power and potable water systems, and leaving many tens of thousands of residents and tourists isolated and increasingly desperate, unable to go anywhere.
The crisis worsened on Saturday as Hurricane Jose rumbled through the region. Though the islands hit by Irma avoided a direct blow from the second hurricane, its arrival forced the suspension of relief and rescue operations, prolonging the agony for many.