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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)

#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)

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