How do you explain this to a child?
Grand-Case (France) (AFP) - Her child was born barely five hours ago, but there's no joy in the young mother's eyes as she breastfeeds her baby, only a sunken, absent gaze.
Survival instinct is the only thing keeping her going as she awaits her chance to get away before Hurricane Jose finds the Franco-Dutch Caribbean island of St Martin to complete the destruction brought on by Irma.
The Grand-Case airport, which is located on the French-run side, is the only way off the island and the departure hall now resembles a children's ward in a hospital.
Staff in white blouses have taken charge, and a few toddlers play hide-and-seek as their mothers, too exhausted to move, look on.
A fire brigade officer breaks the melancholy silence with bad news.
"Coline, there won't be another plane leaving," he says, addressing a nurse. "Tell them to go home, we've done what we can for today."
Coline Julie's eyes widen with disbelief. It's not her place to argue, but bitter disappointment is written all over her face. "These mothers are very strong," she whispers. "They're not concerned with their own lives, only with the well-being of their children."
How many of these brave mothers scrambling for a way out has she seen today?
"I don't know, there've been so many," says this 25-year-old nurse. "The men stay, but the women take their children to the French mainland, or at least to a safe place in Guadeloupe."
The tiny airport with its single short runway facing out to sea is grotesquely inadequate for the giant task of evacuating the island's scared population.
And so only the most vulnerable groups are allowed even this far.
- How do you tell the kids? -
Old ladies in wheelchairs, pregnant women and young children are led to the aircraft which shuttling to and fro via an air corridor between here and Guadeloupe. The planes arrive loaded with water and food, and take off with as many people as possible.
The adults try to explain the dramatic events to the children, but how do you describe a catastrophe like Hurricane Irma, with winds of 330 kilometres per hour (200 miles per hour) that snap trees like matchsticks and rip homes apart like toys?
"Their families told them there was going to be a big storm. We try not to lie to them, to help them understand, but the words obviously can't match the reality," she sighs, looking out at the broken parts of a few small planes strewn by the runway.
And how do you tell the kids that even now they're not safe, that Jose is racing towards the island, having started out as a Category Three storm, but now with the fury of a Four?
During the rare moments of conversation, the nurse talks about other things. "I try a little humour to relax the atmosphere because nobody here has had any sleep. Deep down, these kids' emotional turmoil is three times as intense as what the adults are feeling."
- 'Words will come later' -
Beyond the island's devastation, Coline says she worries about the havoc that the storms are wreaking on the children's psyche.
A few feet away one of her collegues is giving morsels of food to a little girl who's gone all quiet. Her eyes hidden behind plaited hair, the girl is holding her Mickey Mouse soft toy in a tense grip that she refuses to relax.
"Words will come later," Coline says. "They'll be saying things like: 'Don't worry, mom, our neighbours have scotch tape, so we can repair everything."
Coline says she'll go to a friend's house in Mont Vernon tonight, away from the dangerous coast, for a few precious hours of rest.
Bud she knows that there'll be more, many more, women and children at the airport in the morning, desperate for assistance.
And so, of course, she'll be back.