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Relief Operations Intensify in Virgin Islands

September 18, 1995

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ Military planes delivered food, water and supplies by the ton Monday to victims of Hurricane Marilyn, six years to the day after Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Caribbean.

C-130 cargo planes thundered onto the airstrip at St. Thomas, beginning the full relief effort. The island’s 51,000 residents lost water, electricity and telephone service when Marilyn struck Saturday.

National Guard troops and police directed traffic in Charlotte Amalie, the islands’ capital, where long lines formed at gasoline stations. The drive from the airport to the resort of Frenchman’s Reef, normally a 15-minute trip, took 45 minutes Monday.

In the interior, workers cleared roads of power lines and utility poles. A radio station was set up so residents could leave messages for loved ones.

Stacey J. Fredericks sifted through the debris of her home, salvaging clothes she hung on lines stretched across her yard. She pointed to a pile of rubble with a refrigerator and dishwasher protruding.

``We live here _ or we did,″ she said.

Her sister, Donnise Fredericks-North, said the cleanup helped keep her mind off their trouble.

``All this stuff we’re trying to save keeps us busy,″ she said. ``But if you stop and start thinking about that night ... you just don’t want to do that.″

The total number of victims wasn’t immediately known. Authorities reported that between three and six people were killed in St. Thomas, while a hospital worker in St. Croix reported two storm-related deaths there. Two people died in Puerto Rico, and one unconfirmed fatality was reported in St. John.

Monday’s airlift included 300,000 prepackaged military meals, drinking water and ice, said James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

``This is a massive response and has taken a combination of everything we have as a federal team to make this happen,″ Witt said at a briefing in St. Thomas.

Up to 80 percent of St. Thomas’ homes were damaged or destroyed, FEMA said.

Witt said he was unaware of any missing people on St. Thomas. Officials earlier had reported about 50 people missing or injured.

A tropical storm watch was issued for Bermuda on Monday as Marilyn moved through the Atlantic.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the center of Marilyn was about 420 miles southwest of Bermuda, moving north at 14 mph with winds of 100 mph. It was expected to pass near Bermuda sometime Tuesday, well east of the U.S. mainland.

About 100 U.S. marshals arrived in St. Thomas to help stop sporadic looting. Authorities requested the help to prevent looting on the scale that St. Croix suffered after Hurricane Hugo in September 1989.

Armored personnel carriers patrolled the streets overnight, and no further looting was reported.

Three barges, each with 50,000 gallons of water, were en route from Puerto Rico to St. Croix and St. Thomas, and federal agencies were preparing to ship 1 million pounds of food to the islands.

The Transportation Department said Monday it was sending $1 million to rebuild roads, while military and charter aircraft were evacuating stranded tourists from St. Thomas to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Red Cross was sending about 25,000 pounds of supplies to St. Thomas and St. Croix, including plastic sheeting to protect homes exposed to the elements by Marilyn’s 100-mph winds.

Hurricane Marilyn put Coral World, a large aquarium on St. Thomas, out of business. Eleven sharks died in a tank; those that survived were released into the sea.

Initial reports out of St. John, five miles northeast of St. Thomas, indicated 20 percent of the buildings sustained some damage, FEMA said. There were no official reports of fatalities.

Twenty percent of the buildings on St. Croix had some damage, said FEMA spokesman Mark Wilson. Power was out, but the local telephone system was intact.

Six years ago Monday, Hugo’s 140-mph winds and 200-mph gusts tore through St. Croix. Nearly 90 percent of the island’s homes were destroyed.

In Puerto Rico, the body of a diving instructor was found in his sunken sailboat off Culebra island, and a man was electrocuted while moving a TV antenna as the storm approached.

FEMA said Monday that 100 homes were destroyed in Culebra and another 250 were damaged.

Off St. Thomas, meanwhile, the Coast Guard searched for three people missing since two fishing boats sank Friday night. Coast Guard helicopters earlier rescued four people from the boats, and a fifth swam to a nearby island. All five were in good condition.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory, were purchased by the United States from Denmark in 1917.

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