Stranded Canadians on their way home
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Monday, September 11, 2017 5:19PM EDT
Help is on the way to rescue hundreds of Canadians who are stranded in the Caribbean islands hard hit by Hurricane Irma. Commercial airlines will touch down later today to bring an estimated 390Canadians back home. The rescue efforts tonight are focused in both St. Martin and Turks and Caicos.
For friends and family members worried about folks stuck down south, this news couldn't come fast enough. In fact, there was a lot of criticism that the Canadian government was slow to respond to this crisis.
Kingston resident Lacey Sheppy Cranston says this is how her mother summed up the devastation around her in St. Martin.
“My mom described it as being in hell,” she told CTV Ottawa in a phone interview.
News footage shows boats on their sides, houses torn apart and people trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. And throughout all this, Cranston says, little help from the Canadian government getting her parents back home.
“This isn't first hurricane where there's been devastation,” Sheppy Cranston said, “where we had to go in and bring Canadians home. It just seems like it took a long time to make a decision to put a plan in place.”
“We are working hard to get everybody home,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said today.
Global Affairs held a briefing to update Canadians on what measures are underway to ensure the safety of those stranded. The government will piggyback on commercial airlines to help out.
“We’re making every effort to help Canadians return home,” said Marc Garneau, the Federal Transport Minister, “and we’ve been in contact with Canadians on the ground and their relatives back home. Getting Canadians home is our priority and we've been working with our international partners, and with airports in those Caribbean locations to make that happen.”
This morning, a WestJet flight to St. Martin's evacuated 150 Canadians. An Air Canada flight will leave from Turks and Caicos with 90 people on board. And a WestJet flight will take more people later in the day.
Sheppy-Cranston just found out her parents will be on one of those flights.
“I just got a text two minutes ago that my parents have a boarding pass in hand and they're coming home,” said a tearful Sheppy-Cranston.
Jim and Daintry Batten of Ottawa are hoping their son will soon be home as well.
Jeff Batten and his girlfriend are stuck in Cuba, which was also battered by Irma. Batten says he didn't think they were going to survive the night and thanks the hotel staff for that.
“At one point, it seemed the roof was going to be ripped off the building,”a shaken Batten said in a cellphone interview, “and they moved us to the basement and we stayed there for the rest of the night.”
The couple is supposed to be on a Sunwing flight out later today, not too soon for Batten's worried parents.
I can't wait, you hear their voice but you want to touch them when they get back, for sure,” said Daintry Batten.”