US citizens on St. Martin rescued

US citizens on St. Martin rescued
© Getty Images

More than 500 Americans stranded on the island of St. Martin have been rescued by U.S. military aircraft.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told ABC News that the State Department worked closely with the military over the last 24 hours to evacuate hundreds of people from the island, which is jointly administered by France and the Netherlands.

"The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is our top priority," Nauert said. "Over the last 24 hours, Department of State has worked in close coordination with the Department of Defense to assist over 500 American citizens with air evacuations from [St. Martin], beginning with those needing urgent medical care."

"These operations will expand as weather conditions improve after Hurricane Jose passes the island," she added.


C-130 aircraft from the Puerto Rico, Kentucky and New York Air National Guard began evacuating Americans Friday evening, and one Defense official put the number of Americans rescued at more than 800 by Saturday afternoon.

Nauert told reporters that operations would resume after conditions from Hurricane Jose, another category 4 storm, finishes battering the area.

"We intend to resume operations to St. Martin as soon as it is safe to do so," Nauert said Saturday. "Until Hurricane Jose has safely passed, we strongly advise U.S. citizen to shelter in place at a secure location."

"We are coordinating with all parts of the U.S. government to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens," Nauert added. "We are also tracking requests for assistance for citizens of other countries."

At least 25 people have been killed by Irma so far, and states of emergency have been declared for Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Irma is currently a Category 3 hurricane, but experts warn it could strengthen again before reaching the U.S. mainland.