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Posted: September 07, 2017

World-famous airport ravaged by Hurricane Irma


A photo taken during a helicopter flyover shows damage on St. Maarten in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September 2017. (Dutch Ministry of Defence)

By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten —

An airport famous for its easy to see, low-flying airplanes was left devastated after Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean on Wednesday.

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Princess Juliana International Airport, in St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin island, was inaccessible Wednesday, according to the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Officials released a photo taken from a helicopter of the airport after Hurricane Irma slammed through the region with winds topping 175 mph. Nearby buildings appeared to have had their roofs torn off and debris appeared scattered across the airport's field.

The airport closed Tuesday afternoon in anticipation of the storm.

The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over St. Martin around 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported. Photos posted by French weather observatory Kerauos showed sand and debris inside the airport and spread across the tarmac.

The airport is popular among visitors who would gather at nearby Maho Beach to watch the planes fly relatively close overhead, The Washington Post reported. Planes landing at or taking off from the airport had to fly low because of the runway's proximity to the shoreline.

“It’s just heartbreaking to see the airport, the homes and hotels in ruins,” Julie Young, a Virginia resident who visited St. Martin in June, told The Washington Post. “The Maho Beach plane-watching was spectacular.”

Dutch officials told The Associated Press that at least one person was killed in St. Maarten as a result of Irma. 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Irma was a storm of “epic proportions” that left “wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses,” according to the AP.

“Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,” Rutte said after a meeting of the government’s crisis committee.

The island territory is home to about 40,000 people.

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