With family stuck in St. Martin, Montreal man wants feds to rescue Canadians trapped in Hurricane Irma’s wreck
A Montreal man with family in St. Martin is calling on the federal government to send helicopters to rescue Canadians trapped on the Caribbean island, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma and is in the crosshairs of another hurricane.
Olivier Dionne’s sister Melissa has been living on the French side of the island, which is split between Dutch and French control, for a year with her husband and two young children.
He said he received a text message from her yesterday saying they are alive, but he has no word on injuries or how they are doing.
Olivier and Melissa Dionne
Melissa Dionne (right) sent her brother Olivier a message saying she was alive following the hurricane, but hasn’t sent him anything since. (Submitted by Olivier Dionne)
He isn’t sure where his sister is staying. He said as far as he knows, their house was damaged but may still be standing.
Dionne says as news emerged of other governments, such as the U.S., taking steps to rescue stranded citizens, he called the department of Global Affairs to see if Canada will do the same.
He said he was told Canada has no plans to intervene, but the representative took his sister’s information in case anything changes.
He said he isn’t happy with that response, especially considering Hurricane Jose is supposed to hit tomorrow. Since Irma destroyed the majority of the buildings on the French side of the island, many people don’t have a place to hide from what’s coming.
“No one’s taking action. They’re stranded, everyone is talking about having troops, but no one’s moving. There are Canadians right now that need to be rescued,” he said, his voice shaking.
In a statement, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Brianne Maxwell did not address whether Canada had plans to go get citizens who are trapped, saying instead that the government is providing consular assistance to those who need it.
She added that Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to the regions in the path of Hurricane Irma, but those who do go there should be prepared, have a plan and follow the advice of local authorities.
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Death toll could rise
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb says Hurricane Irma has left at least nine people dead, seven missing and 112 injured on the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and urged coastal residents to take shelter as Jose approaches.
Collomb told reporters Friday that the death toll could rise as more emergency workers continue to search the area.
He said France is shuttling security forces, emergency workers and aid to the islands before the next storm hits Saturday night. He said the top priority is to “save the population and restore order” after looting broke out in some areas.
Dionne said other people he knows who are in St. Martin are posting the videos showing people looting stores, and what sounds like shots being fired in the background.
While the U.S. is looking into getting citizens off St. Martin, Canada says it has no plans to do the same
“I’m very worried right now,” he said.
René Lépine, the president of a Quebec-based real estate firm who lives in St. Martin, witnessed the looting first-hand and likened scenes on the streets to “anarchy.”
He said he was punched in the face by someone who was trying to grab his camera while he was taking photos.
Lépine said he is encouraged that Dutch marines are arriving on the island and he’s hoping authorities will soon get a handle on the situation.
“If it does not get under control, I will be looking for a way out. I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to survive this.”
Still no word
The French rescue operation includes military frigates, military and civilian planes and helicopters. Collomb has said 100,000 food rations were sent to St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, the equivalent of four days of supplies.
Dionne said his family members have no electricity, not much drinking water, no Wi-Fi or cellphone service.
“Sending food is important, I understand, sending medical attention for people who are injured on the island is important, but there’s a serious matter right now. There’s a hurricane hitting in 24 hours, and no one is talking about that.”
Some people had access to their phones for a few minutes yesterday, which is how his sister managed to send him the message, but she hasn’t contacted him since.
The U.S. Consulate General in Curacao said it believes about 6,000 Americans are stranded on St. Martin. It said it was working with the U.S. and other governments to try to figure out how to get the Americans off the island either by air or boat.
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