PARIS: France said two people had been killed on St Barts and St Martin after the two eastern Caribbean islands were hit by Hurricane Irma, and announced it would set up an emergency fund to help them rebuild.
"At the present moment, there are reports of two dead and two seriously injured," the French minister for overseas affairs, Annick Girardin, told the news channel BFMTV. "But obviously, the situation can change very, very quickly."
Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron, after chairing a crisis meeting at the interior ministry in Paris, warned that the toll would be "harsh and cruel" and that damage on the two islands was "considerable."
"A national reconstruction plan will be implemented as soon as possible," Macron said, adding that an emergency fund to finance it would be set up.
Girardin was to fly to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe late Wednesday with emergency teams and supplies to assess the situation, the ministry said.
St. Martin ("Sint Maarten" in Dutch), located south of the island of Anguilla, is divided between the Netherlands and France.
St. Barts ("Saint Barthelemy" in French), which lies to the southeast of St. Martin, is administered with the status of a French collectivity, as is the French part of St. Martin.