Critics say Canada slow to rescue citizens hammered by hurricane.
Apparently stung by criticism that it is not doing enough to rescue citizens stuck in areas hit by Hurricane Irma, the Canadian government said Monday that bringing home stranded citizens was its “top priority”.
“We are working hard to get a lot of people home today,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a government briefing.
At least 368 Canadians remain stranded in the Caribbean, according to Canadian media.
The government reported Monday that an emergency response center set up by the government in Ottawa had processed 2,140 calls for help.
Freeland said any Canadians stuck in storm-ravaged areas should contact the center.
“This is a truly difficult, truly frightening situation,” she said. “Our top priority is focusing on those Canadians and getting them home…I am not going to rest until everybody is back and safe.”
But the New Democrat Party (NDP) said the Liberal government has been slow to react to the pleas of trapped Canadians.
“Over the past several days, our office has been in frequent contact with Canadian families stranded by Hurricane Irma,” NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere said in a statement on the party’s website.
“These Canadians are concerned that the response by Canada to the crisis has been slow and insufficient.
“They have told us they feel abandoned by their government,” she said.
Over the weekend, the government evacuated 390 people from St. Maarten, and a West Jet plane is on the way to hopefully bring another 150 Canadians home, said Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
In Turks and Caicos, officials refused to let 95 stranded Canadians board a plane home Sunday after they closed the main terminal to all but humanitarian flights. According to Canadian media, the officials have now given permission for the Canadians to leave, and an Air Canada flight was on the way there.