September 22, 2017 5:58 pm
Updated: September 22, 2017 6:00 pm

Evacuation for Canadian students stranded in Dominica hampered by Hurricane Maria damage

Damaged homes from Hurricane Maria are shown in this aerial photo over the island of Dominica, September 19, 2017. Photo taken September 19, 2017.

Courtesy Nigel R. Browne/Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency/Regional Security System/Handout via REUTERS
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OTTAWA – The devastation Hurricane Maria wreaked upon the Caribbean island of Dominica is hampering plans to evacuate more than 150 Canadian students who have asked Ottawa for help.

Damaged infrastructure, non-functioning airports and a lack of communication are frustrating efforts to get the students home, said Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.

READ MORE: 201 Canadians waiting to be rescued after Hurricane Maria, over 6,000 already at home

“The situation in Dominica continues to be difficult,” Alghabra said Friday.

“The communications are down. Airports are dysfunctional, so we are unable to land any aircraft there.”

About 150 Canadian students are stranded at the Ross University School of Medicine, with about a dozen more at a different post-secondary institution on the island, Alghabra said.

The Liberal government is in constant contact with school officials, he added.

“The universities are arranging for boats to transfer these students to St. Lucia, where our consular officials are waiting for them there,” Alghabra said. “We will offer services or assistance when they arrive and then arrange for their return home.”

WATCH: Ongoing coverage of  Hurricane Maria


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Even that plan is taking some time, he noted, because debris around the island is making it difficult for boats to reach it.

Alghabra said he understand families are feeling anxious as they wait for their loved ones to get help.

“Obviously, the anxiety is justified, because their loved ones are still on the island, but we are doing everything we can to get them out of there as quickly as possible.”

That is one reason he said government officials are trying to keep the families in the loop as much as they can: “Information is gold, to reassure them.”

Maria struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in over 80 years.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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