Armelle Pouriche-Daniels is a French citizen, and a longtime Westport resident. Her mother, Daniele Chappuy, lives on St. Martin — the half-French, half-Dutch Caribbean island that was flattened by Hurricane Irma.
Armelle Daniels (right) and her mother Daniele Chappuy this spring.
Hours after the devastation, Armelle finally spoke with her mother (someone was kind enough to let her charge her phone for a few minutes with a small gas generator). Armelle says:
My mother is unharmed, and in very good spirits. She is staying with a friend, as her beachfront apartment was completely destroyed.
Structures are completely soaked in water. Everything inside was swept away by the ocean and winds: furniture, clothes, appliances, toilets and plumbing. Her cars are gone too.
There is no water or electricity on the island, except for a few spots like the hospital. There is no more gas, and food is running low. Stores are all closed. Looting is rampant.
The French army has been deployed to help and bring supplies, but has not yet arrived. People are homeless, hungry and desperate. In those situations the best comes out in some people, and the worst in others.
One scene of devastation on St. Martin …
People on the islands are always told “the big one” is coming, but it ends up being just big waves, and a bit of water and sand in the house. Nobody believed this one was real.
Tourists will not be able to return for 2 years. The residence where my mother lives will take 1-2 years to rebuild. Given how long it took for the island to recover from 1993’s Hurricane Luis, I think those estimates are very optimistic.
Mom was laughing on the phone, recounting her “shopping experience.” Shopping in St. Martin now consists of walking on the beach and hoping to find what you are looking for. In her case, it was a bar of soap.
She also found a pair of jeans that looked familiar. They were hers — with $3.20 in the pocket that will “come in handy.”
… and another.
She has not changed. She is keeping it all together, trying to cheer everyone up. She does not want us to go there (and there are no flights, or places to stay).
She is not considering coming to stay with us right away. She needs to take care of everything locally first.
Thank you to all who have offered to help. There is no immediate need. For now Mom is inventorying her losses. When communications are re-established, she will be in contact with her insurer.
Mom’s main source of income were her rentals. Once that is sorted out, my husband Jim and I will be here for her.
We appreciate everyone’s thoughts, offers to help, and prayers. Above all, we thank God for my mom’s — and others’ — safety.