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Former valley resident describes St. Martin destruction

"There was no where to go, no where."

Former valley resident in Saint Martin g

SAINT MARTIN - A former Palm Springs resort owner gives an update on the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Irma in St. Martin in the Caribbean.

Stephen Payne used to co-own Desert Shadows Inn in Palm Springs. He is now the managing director of Club Orient Resort, the second-largest employer on the French side of the island.

Read: Former Palm Springs resort owner describes Hurricane Irma's devastation in St. Martin

Payne and his wife lived through Hurricane Irma as it decimated as a Category 5 storm. They took refuge inside a second-story bathroom, the third floor outside their shelter gone.

They eventually emerged to an unrecognizable landscape.

Payne described the notable Grand Case, the gourmet capital of the Caribbean, as "honest to God, a scene out of Dante's Inferno."

After Irma they prepared for the next blow by planning to use a mattress as a shield from the millions of pieces of glass and debris, but Hurricane Jose ended up being a relative non-event.

Payne described the aftermath as chaos, with thousands of people waiting in the heat and humidity at an airport for some direction.

"There was no information of any kind. Zero, from any government," Payne said. "You would have thought in the most popular tourist spots in the world for Americans, that there would have been some kind of plan formulated."

Payne and his wife jumped at their first opportunity to get away from the island.

"The Panamanian plane was not full, so they said, 'Does anyone want to go to Panama?' They could have said Greenland and we would have gotten on the plane," Payne said.

But now he worries about those they left behind. Many people still stranded on the island, now forced to live in a looter's economy.

"There's no food left in the supermarket, so now they have to buy it from the looters. That takes cash," Payne said.

The first time KESQ / CBS Local 2 spoke with Payne, he had only been in contact with five of his 132 employees. By Tuesday, he said he had heard from roughly 35. 

Payne said as soon as there is power, he will have to figure out how to get back to the island to sign termination papers for his employees. In order for them to be able to get the maximum government benefits from France, it is required that they not have employment. 

He expected the process to take about six weeks,. However, the employees are paid with debit cards, which, at this point, will do them no good. Payne said there are no banks left.

Connect with reporter Katie Widner on Facebook, or by email at katie.widner@cbslocal2.com.

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