Hurricane Irma: 1,200 Americans evacuated from St. Martin

The U.S. State Department said Saturday that 1,200 Americans had been evacuated from the Caribbean island St. Martin/St. Maarten, but nearly 5,000 Americans remain on the island days after Hurricane Irma's destructive hit.

On Saturday evening, the State Department said it is "strongly advising" U.S. citizens to shelter in place until powerful Hurricane Jose passes. Evacuation flights were supsended Saturday due to the weather. 

An estimated 6,000 Americans were stranded when Irma hit St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control. Tiffany Bender, a New York City woman vacationing in St. Martin when Irma hit, told CBSN she "honestly doesn't know" when she can get off the island.

St. Martin Hurricane Irma

This Sept. 6, 2017 photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees.

Jonathan Falwell / AP

"We are just asking that not just for ourselves -- please, please call your local electives, call your assemblymen, call your senators, call your embassies and tell them you have citizens who are stranded here, Anguilla, St. Bart's and we just need to go home," Bender said. 

Bender told CBSN they had contacted the U.S. embassy and they were given a list of hotels that still had power. 

The State Department has been criticized for what many considered a slow response to Irma, which affected thousands of Americans as it tore through the Caribbean.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauret said Saturday that prior to Irma's landfall, the State Deparment assisted departure of U.S. citizens through commercial and charter transportation, along with our own employees and family members. 

Nauret said a 24-hour task force to coordinate the U.S. government response to Irma and Jose, the core of which moved away from the Caribbean on Saturday but still lashed some islands.