September 11, 2017 9:13 am
Updated: September 11, 2017 1:06 pm

Canadians who were barred from flight leaving Irma-ravaged Turks and Caicos cleared to fly home

Strong winds battered Providenciales, the Turks and Caicos as Hurricane Irma descended upon the Caribbean islands.


OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expressing sympathy and solidarity with those Canadians trapped by the devastation wrought by hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, as well as their worried family members at home.

Freeland tells a briefing today that the federal government is doing everything in its power to help and that she personally won’t rest until everyone is brought home safely.

WATCH BELOW: Ongoing video coverage of Hurricane Irma

LIVE UPDATES: Tracking Hurricane Irma’s path

She says some 390 people have been brought home over the weekend, and commercial flights will be returning to Toronto with the rest of those who have registered with Global Affairs Canada.

Transport Minister Mark Garneau, who also took part in today’s briefing, says 150 evacuees are to be on board a flight out of St. Maarten, while an additional 90 people will be brought home from Turks and Caicos.

The government has come in for stinging criticism for its response to calls for assistance from Canadians trapped in the Caribbean.

WATCH: Hurricane Hunter flies into eye of Irma as it approaches Florida

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One key question has been why it took so long for the government to deploy any aircraft to the region, where hundreds of Canadians have been pleading for help. Garneau says airports are among the facilities most affected by the hurricanes, complicating relief and evacuation efforts.

“We are working very, very hard to bring you home,” Freeland told the briefing via conference call from Toronto.

“We are very aware of how frightening, how worrying this situation is, and I am not going to rest until everybody is back and safe.”

READ MORE: Canadian med students who fled St. Maarten urge Ottawa to help peers stranded by Irma

A special team from Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence is in Antigua to determine what help is needed after the island endured the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Jose.

Several countries, including the U.S., the Netherlands and the U.K., have evacuated citizens with military aircraft; Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt has slammed the federal Liberals for not doing the same.

Freeland says a C-17 Globemaster aircraft will be delivering relief supplies, and will be available to bring home any additional Canadians still in the region later in the week.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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