#1 of 10 Most Popular News Galleries of 2017: Hurricane Irma thrashes the Caribbean

(Originally posted on September 9, 2017)

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Strung like beads along the northeast edge of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands are tiny, remote and beautiful, with azure waters and ocean breezes drawing tourists from around the world.

The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. Looting and lawlessness were reported Saturday by both French and Dutch authorities, who were sending in extra troops to restore order.

The Category 5 storm snapped the islands’ fragile links to the outside world with a direct hit early Wednesday, pounding their small airports, decapitating cellphone towers, filling harbors with overturned, crushed boats and leaving thousands of tourists and locals desperate to escape.

The situation worsened Saturday with the passage of Category 4 Hurricane Jose, which shuttered airports and halted emergency boat traffic through the weekend. (AP)

Photos: Hurricane Irma pounds Florida »
Photos: Aerial photos of Hurricane Irma destruction »
Photos: Not a beach day in Miami, but the people-watching is fine »

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Havana, Cuba

A Cuban carrying his pet wades through a flooded street in Havana, on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

A completely destroyed house is seen 12 days after Hurricane Irma ripped through the island, in the Cruz Bay area of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands September 16, 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Saint Martin, France

Lex Kools leaves food and water for his neighbors’ dogs in the Cole Bay community, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people across an island shared by Dutch St. Martin and French St. Martin are trying to rebuild the lives they had before it was pummeled by a Category 5 storm. (Photo: Carlos Giusti/AP)

St. Maarten, Netherlands

This Sept. 6, 2017 photo provided by the Dutch Defense Ministry shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Maarten. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. Significant damage was reported on the island that is split between French and Dutch control. (Photo: Gerben Van Es/Dutch Defense Ministry via AP)

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)

Havana, Cuba

Cubans wade through flooded streets in Havana, on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Saint Martin, France

A photo taken on September 17, 2017 shows a woman standing in a room without a roof or windows at the Alizea residence in Mont Vernon, on the French Caribbean island of Saint Martin, after the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Helene Valenzuela/AFP/Getty Images)

Havana, Cuba

Cubans wade through a flooded street in Havana, on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

St. Maarten, Netherlands

Boats wrecked by Hurricane Irma are seen from a plane in Sint Maarten, Netherlands September 11, 2017. (Photo: Alvin Baez/Reuters)

Havana, Cuba

A flooded street near the Malecon in Havana, on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

St. Maarten, Netherlands

Storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Maarten, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Gerben Van Es/Dutch Defense Ministry via AP)

Marigot, St. Martin

People walk through damage on Sept. 7, 2017, in a sand-covered street of Marigot, near the Bay of Nettle, on the island of Saint-Martin in the northeast Caribbean, after the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Havana, Cuba

Waves crash against the Mudejar gazebo at the Almendares river, after the passing of Hurricane Irma, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Havana, Cuba

Waves crash against the lighthouse after the passing of Hurricane Irma, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

Caibarien, Cuba

Residents walk near downed power lines felled by Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/AP)

Hurricanes Irma and Jose in the Atlantic Ocean

GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricanes Irma and Jose in the Atlantic Ocean on the evening of Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: NOAA)

Havana, Cuba

Waves crash against the seafront boulevard El Malecon ahead of the passing of Hurricane Irma, in Havana, Cuba Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

Virgin Gorda’s Leverick Bay, British Virgin Islands

Storm damage is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Virgin Gorda’s Leverick Bay in the British Virgin Islands on Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: Caribbean Buzz Helicopters via AP)

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

A resident ducks under a downed power line in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

A damaged vehicle is flipped on its side in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)

Clustered boats

Boats are clustered together after Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The death toll from Hurricane Irma has risen to 22 as the storm continues its destructive path through the Caribbean. The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. There was also one each in Barbuda, Anguilla, and Barbados. The toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas. (Photo: Caribbean Buzz via AP)

Orient Bay, St. Martin, French Carribean

A man reacts as stands in his destroyed home in Orient Bay on the French Carribean island of St. Martin, after the passage of Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Orient Bay, St. Martin, French Carribean

Damage in Orient Bay on the French Carribean island of St. Martin, after the passage of Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Plata, Dominican Republic

People walk past a fallen stadium lighting tower as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

St. Maarten

Royal Navy personnel patrol a street following passage of Hurricane Irma on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Gerben Van Es/Dutch Defense Ministry/AFP/Getty Images)

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

A man feeds pigeons next to a fallen power pole in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Fort Liberte, Haiti

A man walks in street that was flooded in Malfeti, in the city of Fort Liberte in the north east of Haiti, on Sept. 8, 2017, during the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Hector Retamal /AFP/Getty Images)

Nagua, Dominican Republic

Residents come out to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in Nagua, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Tatiana Fernandez/AP)

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Children remove fallen tree branches in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: Ricardo Rojas/Reuters)

Caibarien, Cuba

A woman and child use a blanket as protection from wind and rain as they walk in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Hurricane Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/AP)

Nagua, Dominican Republic

A home is surrounded by debris brought in by Hurricane Irma in Nagua, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Tatiana Fernandez/AP)

Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

People watch flooded water in a street in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Luis Tavarez/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Cap-Haitien, Haiti

A man runs back to his house in Aviation neighborhood, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti on Sept. 7, 2017, as Hurricane Irma approaches. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

This image made from video shows flooding caused by Hurricane Irma on Charlotte Amalie, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Ian Brown/AP)

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

In this image made from video shows a damage to a post office caused by Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Ian Brown/AP)

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Angie Rodriguez (L) sits with her grandson at their home during a blackout after Hurricane Irma rolled by the U.S. territory’s northern coast, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Alvin Baez/Reuters)

Marigot, St. Martin

The Hotel Mercure in Marigot, near the Bay of Nettle, on the French Collectivity of Saint Martin, during the passage of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Holidaymakers bed down in the corridors of the Theatre building in the Dreams Hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock)

Fajardo, Puerto Rico

A woman pulls a travel case on a rock scattered road in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

A woman walks through a flooded street as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

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