As Hurricane Irma passed over the Caribbean island country of Sint Maarten — where a group of Maine wedding guests was stranded on Tuesday — one guest sent a message to her mom in Bangor saying water was coming into the room where she was holed up.
Suzanne LeVasseur said the 6 a.m. text message from her daughter Brittany LeVasseur, who works at the High Tide Restaurant in Brewer, was terrifying.
“As the eye of the storm passed, the last text message from my daughter was that water and sand was coming into the room, and the roof was moving,” the elder LeVasseur said Thursday, “She said the sound was so loud their ears were popping.”
Staff at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino & Spa moved the group of about 200 guests, including 14 from the Bangor area, to another part of the resort with cement walls. Everyone survived. Suzanne LeVasseur learned that her daughter was OK when the resort posted an update at noon Tuesday, about 6 hours after the last text from her daughter.
“That room where they were in has just one wall [remaining],” she said. “The resort they were in is gone. It’s gone.”
Sint Maarten is an independent nation in the Kingdom of the Netherlands that shares an island with the French territory of St. Martin. Irma hit the island on Tuesday with winds in excess of 185 miles per hour and left at least eight dead in its wake, according to Reuters. It was expected to hit the Bahamas Thursday evening and make landfall in Florida on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Images of the resort after the hurricane show flattened or completely destroyed buildings. All reservations for the rest of 2017 have been canceled, according to a message posted on the company’s website. The Mainers are stuck at what remains of the resort, which has no power or running water.
Some of the wedding attendees from Maine left on Monday. Brittany LeVasseur’s group was scheduled to stay an extra week. They tried to rebook to leave early, but the flights were sold out, her mother said.
“They made it through and we are extremely happy,” Suzanne LeVasseur said. “[Resort staff] are also very happy with Mainers. One of the boys fixed a generator and another one wired a gas stove to get things going.”
It’s not clear when the Mainers will be able to return home. The Princess Juliana International Airport also was severely damaged by Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, and all flights have been canceled, LeVasseur said.
In a Thursday text message from her daughter, “they said it would be at least four weeks before they can even get help. The port is gone. The airport is demolished. [Local officials] have no idea how they are going to get provision to them.”
LeVasseur and the parents of the other Mainers stranded on the island have been thinking of other ways to get their adult children home, especially since Hurricane Jose is following Irma’s path.
“We were looking to charter a helicopter or charter a plane but we can’t [because the airport is closed],” she said. “There is nothing we can do.”
LeVasseur reached out to the U.S. embassy on the island, but no one answered the phone and the embassy’s website is currently down. She contacted Sen. Susan Collins’ office, who said they could help with communications.
“It’s quite a mess,” Suzanne LeVasseur said. “It’s quite a fiasco.”
The wedding party bought extra water and food when they realized they would be stuck on the island during the storm, but “not enough to last four weeks,” the worried Bangor mother said.
“My daughter finally got through on the telephone at about 6:30 p.m. last night,” LeVasseur said. “She said, ‘Mom, I’m ok. I need to come home. Please get me home.’”