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100 inmates on loose as Irma islanders ‘go feral’

Frenzy: Looters carry off goods in St Martin, where about 80 British tourists are stranded PICTURES: PIXEL8000/PA/REUTERS

INMATES who broke out when their jail was damaged by Hurricane Irma have left the largest British Virgin island Tortola at risk of a ‘complete breakdown of law and order’.

The more than 100 ‘very serious prisoners’ have added to the danger of theft and looting after the storm unleashed destruction and food shortages, Commonwealth minister Sir Alan Duncan told MPs.

He said Royal Marines had been sent in to protect the governor of the islands and ‘everything about law and order’ — as stranded holidaymakers warned Irma survivors are ‘turning feral’.

Claudia Knight, 33, who runs a school on Tortola, said no one there was leaving home unarmed.

Fear: Claudia Knight and Leo Whitting, who is carrying a knife to protect himself on Tortola

Her partner Leo Whitting, 38, remained on the island after she left for the UK with her toddler daughter before the storm struck.

‘You can’t drive your car without a weapon,’ she said. ‘It’s turning really nasty. Leo carries a knife.’

Sir Alan said the British troops had managed to keep a lid on the unrest.

Mercy mission: British Army Commandos bring aid to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where law and order is under threat

‘We’ve been able significantly to reinforce the Marines,’ he said.

‘So we have maintained and kept law and order on the British Virgin Islands, which at one point could have dramatically threatened the already unfortunate plight of those hit by the hurricane.’

Gone with the wind: The remains of a home ripped off its foundations by the hurricane on Tortola

Sir Alan said his principal focus was on helping the 80,000 British citizens in the islands and neighbouring UK territories the Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla.

Nearly 1,000 UK service personnel and 40 tons of aid have arrived in the Caribbean, while 700 more troops are on their way on a ship from Gibraltar.

Sir Alan said 80 British tourists were on Dutch-French island St Martin, where 600 ‘delinquents’, some carrying machetes, were looting homes and shops.

St Martin resident Jacques Charbonnier said: ‘All the food is gone. People are fighting in the streets for what is left.’

Bar boss Massimiliano Napoliello said: ‘There are criminals carrying guns and knives shooting all over.’