Philippe also noted that the French Navy vessel Tonnerre, due for deployment to Saint Martin from Toulon on Tuesday, has "hospital capacity superior to what the hospital of Saint Martin had before the hurricane". "The presidential Airbus will bring equipment and basic necessities", Collomb wrote in his official Twitter blog.
Setting an example of neighborliness and compassion, one owner of a diving supply business located on Virgin Gorda (VG) in the British Virgin Islands-where the United Kingdom government faced criticism for its slow response to the storm and its failure to set up contingency plans before Irma hit-asked those trapped on the island to help those in need and urged anyone who might be in need to help themselves to items that might be found at the shop. The storm is the most intense hurricane in the Atlantic over the past decade, according to some estimates.
The terror of facing down a Category 5 hurricane has combined with a long-held sense of isolation among local residents of St. Martin, some 6,700 kilometers (4,200 miles) from the French mainland and popular with European tourists.
The Dutch Red Cross said 90 percent of buildings on the Dutch territory of St. Maarten were damaged and a third destroyed as Irma roared across the island it shares with French St. Martin.
About a million people, including tens of thousands of tourists, were evacuated ahead of the storm.
Evacuees arriving in the United States from St. Martin spoke of their horror as the hurricane passed overhead and the hard cleanup that has followed. France's public insurance agency estimated that the cost of property damage in St. Martin and St. Barts totaled more than $1.44 billion. Many residents had left town before the storm hit and all foreigners were urged to evacuate. Those who remained were prepared, though they knew this was a storm like few had ever experienced, they told CNN.
"Apart from the structural damage, there have sadly been reports of casualties and fatalities", he said.
He told reporters that air and sea connections with the French Caribbean islands should gradually return to normal by the end of the week, allowing up to 2,500 people a day to leave the island. Another four people were killed on St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin, the Dutch government reported Sunday. Homes were damaged or destroyed across the most populated island, Providenciales, and on the northwestern side of the island, a community known as Blue Hill is "gone", Gold Ray Ewing, the minister of infrastructure, said.
The tiny island of Barbuda was perhaps worst hit.
He also visited the Dutch islands of Saba and St Eustatius, which also were hit by Irma.
Residents in the US territory were offering assistance to other, more severely damaged islands in the region.
British junior foreign minister Alan Duncan said 100 prisoners escaped in the British Virgin Islands during the hurricane.