UPDATE 1-Dutch navy says "enormous damage" on Dutch side of Saint Martin island

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AMSTERDAM, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Hurricane Irma has caused "enormous damage" to the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the Dutch Royal Navy said on Thursday.

The navy, which has two ships stationed off the coast of the island, tweeted images gathered by helicopter showing damaged houses, hotels and boats.

French authorities have counted at least eight dead on the French side of the island, but the Dutch government has yet to comment on any Dutch casualties.

Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said he briefly had contact with Saint Martin's prime minister but communications are sporadic.

He said nine patients at a hospital in the country had been evacuated by Dutch military helicopter.

Sint Maarten is an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with a population of around 40,000.

Images of the country's Juliana Airport showed the landing strips appeared intact, though the navy said the airport is "unreachable" for now.

Andre van der Kamp, commander of the Dutch ship Zeeland, tweeted that the Zeeland and Pelikaan would be trying to moor on Sint Maarten to deliver emergency aid on Thursday, but they needed to complete a safety check of the port first. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)