Hurricane Marilyn ravages U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico

The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands The yachts that used to be in the marina are on the highway. The red roofs of houses are strewn on the ground. The duty-free shops where tourists used to look for bargains are filled with looters.

Hurricane Marilyn has moved on from St. Thomas, but the Caribbean island that it left behind was a changed place yesterday.

Electricity, water and phones were out. Air traffic controllers, the windows of their tower blown out by 100-mph winds, used binoculars and radios to guide in relief flights. A quarter of the houses on the island were destroyed, and nearly all the others damaged.

In Charlotte Amalie, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, hundreds of people looted stores at a waterfront shopping center. No policemen were in sight.

''These are all odd shoes, man,'' said a young man at a Foot Locker store. ''I can't find something that fits.''

The hurricane, the fourth to hit the Caribbean in as many weeks, tore through the Virgin Islands and eastern Puerto Rico on Saturday, blowing apart homes, tossing parked airplanes into the air and killing as many as nine people.

Six people were killed on St. Thomas, home to 51,000 people. On St. Croix, the most populous of the Virgin Islands with 55,000 people, two people died. One person was killed in Puerto Rico.

President Clinton declared the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico disaster areas, making them eligible for federal emergency aid.

Seven military transport planes landed Sunday on St. Thomas with the first relief supplies for island residents plastic sheeting, water, telephone equipment, emergency medical supplies.

In St. Thomas, many buildings lost their facades, gaping open like dolls' houses. FEMA at first said half the island's houses were destroyed, but later said a quarter were destroyed and another 75 percent damaged.

Marilyn blew out the windows of St. Thomas' hospital and flooded it, making it virtually unusable. Doctors were trying to care for 49 patients, including nine critically injured in the storm and four on life-support units with erratic generator power, said Dr. Manuel Guzman.

Eight patients were evacuated yesterday, all by helicopter because debris blocked the road to the airport. Tin sheets from roofs, uprooted trees and utility poles lined the highway.

One stretch along the waterfront was blocked by two 30- to 40-foot yachts blown onto the road from the bay. The 82-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter Point Ledge teetered on the edge of the pier, 30 feet from the roadway. Another two dozen yachts were beached on the far side of the bay.

The dead on St. Thomas included three people who reportedly were aboard boats battered by 12-foot-high waves and at least one man apparently crushed by debris, said David Sachs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Police in Puerto Rico on yesterday found the body of Jack Strickland, a diving instructor from New York City, in a sunken sailboat. Two more were killed by the storm in St. Croix, hospital officials said without elaborating. It was not clear if they were included in the St. Thomas count.

At least 50 more people were injured or missing in St. Thomas, although FEMA said an earlier report of up to 50 people trapped in a collapsed apartment complex in Charlotte Amalie was incorrect. The five-story buildings were in rubble, but FEMA officials in Washington said yesterday that nobody had been trapped.

Communications to St. Thomas were out, and FEMA set up two satellite telephones on Sunday. AT&T was sending a team to replace a microwave dish that Marilyn toppled from a building in Charlotte Amalie, knocking out long-distance phone service.

Virgin Islands Gov. Roy L. Schneider declared a 3 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew.

''Friends, I'm asking you to be calm and continue to be in your homes,'' Schneider said in a statement, which was broadcast by a Puerto Rican radio station because all of the Virgin Islands' stations were knocked out.

''I want all the young people that have been running around to go home and remain at home.''

FEMA said FBI agents would accompany a shipment of satellite equipment yesterday from a military base in Martinsburg, W.Va., to St. Croix. The agents presumably would be intended to prevent looting.

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