PARIS — France has flown two A400M military airlifters and is sailing over the helicopter carrier Tonnerre to deliver humanitarian aid to islands in the French Caribbean, following a deadly devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma, the Armed Forces Ministry said Monday.
A dispatch of troops, including units of the Foreign Legion, paratroopers and paramilitary gendarmes, is part of that mobilization as armed looting has been a response to the natural disaster there, which has killed 10 people and left seven missing.
President Emmanuel Macron is due on Tuesday to fly to the island of St. Martin, one of the French territories hit by the hurricane, and the government has agreed to set up a parliamentary inquiry in the wake of political criticism over a lack of preparedness and operational help.
An A310 transport plane and a second A400M arrived Monday “with reinforcements troops and their equipment,” joining an A340 and an A400M flown over on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement. The latter carried an extra Puma helicopter.
A second Casa tactical transport plane will fly out Tuesday, joining the Casa which was already in the region and had been put on alert on Sept. 4 along with two light surveillance frigates, each equipped with its own helicopter, and two Falcon reconnaissance jets, the ministry said.
Two Puma helicopters flew over from Guyana, and some 100 troops from Martinique were brought in to help. Some 40,000 combat ration kits were sent.
The Tonnerre will sail from Toulon on Tuesday, carrying two NH90 Caiman and two Puma helicopters, 1,000 tons of food and freight, equipment and vehicles for the police and gendarmes, and heavy equipment for reconstruction, the ministry said.
The on-board hospital unit on the Tonnerre will boost the medical facilities, as the hospitals on St. Martin and the neighboring island of St. Barts were heavily damaged, said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, according to daily Le Figaro.
To help restore public security, 415 troops have been sent to St. Martin, including 150 legionaries based in Guyana, 100 troops from Martinique and 165 paratroopers from Carcassonne, southern France.
“These soldiers, working with the internal security forces, will have missions of patrol and securing sensitive sites, logistical convoys and helping the local population facing possible violence or looting attempts,” the ministry said
A military liaison team will help the regional prefect of Guadeloupe, who will manage the disaster relief effort, the ministry said. Adm. René-Jean Cerignola, commander of the armed forces in the French Caribbean, and his joint staff will track the situation through an operational center of the zone.
Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly will closely monitor the situation with the Joint Chief of Staff in the operations and planning center in Paris.
Hurricane Irma and the following storm José flattened houses and buildings on St. Martin and St. Barts, while security fears grew with each passing day.