Relief and tears on France's hurricane-hit St Martin

Photo: AFP

"I'm hungry and thirsty," said a pregnant woman, unable to hold back tears as she threw herself on a packet of almonds and a bottle of water given to her at an emergency relief post in Saint-Martin.

Hurricane Irma hit last week leaving 15 dead on the French territory and neighbouring Saint Barthelemy. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived on a visit Tuesday on St Martin with anger growing over looting and lawlessness.

There are many other tired faces at the relief post - a truck - strained from waiting for handouts to begin.

At the front of the line, the Red Cross formed a security cordon to contain the surging press of people.

"These goods come from the reserve supplies of a company. A water truck should follow," said Joachim, who is in charge of organizing distribution for the NGO, who gave only his first name.

In the relief truck, firemen bustle about, getting supplies ready before they are distributed.

Others supervise the crowd, searching for the most vulnerable people -  the elderly, pregnant women and children - all those who need to be served first.

They try to reassure those arriving who are worried over the length of the queue. "As long as there are people in the truck madam, there are things left," one of them tells a woman concerned about her chances of getting some food.

They hand out fresh produce, such as eggs, chicken, or milk.

The line began to form well before the mid-morning arrival of the truck. Some people had already been waiting for more than two hours in overwhelming heat.

Little water

"We found out that there would be a distribution by emergency radio, 91.1," said Pierre-Richard Gaspard. His neighbor heard through word of mouth, a communication system that works from one end of the island to the other.

There is a general lack of food, but drinking water is the most urgent need.

Sandrine had been waiting in line a long time and said she was hot and thirsty. "There is not even water. What are we going to do? I have nothing left at home," she said as she started to cry.

A friend next to her takes her in her arms and cradles her, saying: "It's okay, we'll help each other."

In the queue the tension rises. "We are scrambling from distribution point to point," shouts a woman, who gives her name as MJ. "When we arrive there, we have to go elsewhere, because there is nothing left".

"We do not have a car, no house, no more water, no more food!" she added.

Some give up. They try their luck at a nearby grocer who reopens from time to time and limits the number of customers entering to avoid a riot in his shop.

An hour later at the distribution point, the queue has decreased and the truck is almost empty. All those who waited were served. They leave with a small smile, grateful, arms laden with food. But without water.