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Hurricane Luis Devastates St. Maarten

September 8, 1995

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten (AP) _ Hurricane Luis made its way northward today toward Bermuda, leaving behind a wake of Caribbean islands where it leveled neighborhoods, tore apart luxury hotels and tossed yachts onto the beach.

St. Maarten was inaccessible by air or sea for two days after it was struck by one of the century’s most powerful hurricanes. When rescue workers, police and journalists arrived Thursday, they found widespread destruction.

At least 13 people were killed as the 700-mile-wide storm swept through the region. Seven bodies washed up in Simpson Bay alone. At least two other people were reported killed and hundreds were missing on the island, which is split between the Dutch side and the larger French side known as St. Martin.

Thousands of tourists were left stranded without electricity, running water or telephone service on St. Maarten, apparently the hardest-hit of the Caribbean islands.

Looters attacked stores ripped apart by the weather.

``They’re taking jewelry, electronics, everything,″ said police Lt. John Reeves, who arrived Thursday from Curacao to help restore order.

Up to 2,000 people were homeless on St. Martin, according to French administrator Michel Diessenbacher.

Hurricane Luis tore through the eastern Caribbean with 125-mph winds, strengthening Thursday to 130 mph in the Atlantic as it moved northwest at about 12 mph.

The storm was not expected to endanger the U.S. mainland, but Bermuda has issued a tropical storm watch. The storm was 530 miles south-southwest of Bermuda by 8 a.m. EDT.

Luis uprooted telephone and electricity poles and trashed airports and jetties. With phone lines down, it was difficult to determine how many people were dead.

Thunderstorms trailing in Luis’ wake had prevented French military helicopters from landing Wednesday. French officials had to wait until Thursday to ferry in food and medicine _ along with volunteer doctors and soldiers.

Other nations also rallied Thursday to help ravaged islands. The British destroyer HMS Southampton was at Anguilla. Caribbean soldiers and police were being dispatched to Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Reeves, the police officer, stood at a main intersection of Philipsburg in St. Maarten. He let only residents drive up to a neighborhood where there was looting.

Hundreds of islanders swarmed Rams’ Supermarket, which had its roof peeled off.

Reeves said police were not arresting looters who took food, since it would spoil in the rain, but would begin detaining those who took other goods.

Up the street, three men lugged a new television set and an electric typewriter.

Several hotels charging up to $400 a night have become hulks with gaping holes in their roofs.

There were miles of destruction, though many homes remained untouched or showed little damage. Millions of dollars worth of yachts were strewn across piers and beaches, including the Stars and Stripes, the boat that won the Americas Cup in 1987.

Update hourly