A world famous airport where Caribbean beach-goers could watch planes taking off and landing has been seriously damaged by Hurricane Irma.
Princess Juliana International Airport in the part-French, part-Dutch island of St Maarten is just 50 metres from the shore and is renowned as a photo spot for thrill-seeking tourists, often seen cowering in the blast of airplane engines.
On Thursday the Dutch Navy tweeted images of the structure, showing sand flung across the runway, although the landing strips appear intact.
It was “hit hard, with what appeared to be sand washed up on parts of the main terminal and the building's roof is extensively damaged. No aircraft were visible on the tarmac,” the Associated Press reported.
Pictures posted on social media have also revealed serious damage to the interior of the airport, including check-in counters and terminal areas.
At least five people on the island are reported to have been killed in the storm, which packed winds of around 175mph as it tore through the region.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Thursday said four bodies had been recovered on the French side of the island, revising down an earlier death toll.
“The death toll is still uncertain because clearing operations are under way,” Philippe told a news conference at a crisis centre in Paris. About 50 people have been injured.
“There is considerable damage,” Philippe said, adding that local authorities in Saint Martin said 95 percent of the houses there had been damaged, and 60 percent were uninhabitable.
“There is no electricity, no drinkable water, gasoline is unavailable.”
Philippe said the government would on Friday declare a state of emergency, thus enabling insurance compensation.
Government officials in the Netherlands said the hurricane had caused enormous devastation on the Dutch side of the island, killing one person and injuring several others.
The Dutch navy, which has two ships stationed off the coast, tweeted images gathered by helicopter showing damaged houses, hotels and boats.
Sint Maarten, as it is known in Dutch, is an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a population of around 40,000 people, about the same as on the French side of the island.