#GlobalNews: “Families of stranded Canadians disappointed by government response to disaster”
It has been a week fraught with worry for Stouffville couple Dennis and Mila Bishev. Their 21-year-old son Daniel, has been stranded on the hurricane-ravaged island of St. Maarten with his classmates.
They are students of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. Unlike his American peers, he was unable to board a flight home quickly.
Instead, he has been hunkered down on campus with others.
“I feel that we as Canadians have very little help from our officials at this point. I’m a proud Canadian, but at this point, it’s very disappointing,” said Dennis.
He said the group had enough food and water to sustain themselves. They supported one another and had generators going. They also helped treat the injured where possible.
Dennis and Mila have been attached to their phones.
“I’m charging it probably four times a day. It’s draining the battery,” he said. “My daughter is a teenager and she organized a Facebook group for everyone affected. There’s a lot of people, so that’s how we’re getting communication.”
The Bishev’s wish more communication had come from Canadian officials a lot earlier.
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Speaking with their son on speaker phone, they asked how the other students were faring.
“Kids are okay. Everyone’s anxious,” replied Daniel. “Everybody just wants to go home. We’ve been told a hundred thousand different things. So far, most of it’s been false.”
Late Monday afternoon, the good news they were waiting for finally came. Daniel and his classmates had boarded a chartered aircraft bound for Chicago. His parents are driving from southern Ontario to be with him.
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Michael and Meryl Moriarty have been in a similar holding pattern. They were trapped in St. Maarten, uncertain about where to go and who would help them.
“The government, from our perspective, did absolutely nothing,” said Meryl over Skype Monday.
The couple has slept in shifts so that one person is alert at all times. They were eventually flown away from the decimated island by perfect strangers who had embarked on a rescue mission.
“They took 10 or 15 of us off the island, flew us to Puerto Rico…I’ve never been treated so well in my life.
From there, they will travel to Newark, New Jersey and then onto Pearson International Airport.
“I have never wanted to kiss the floor of an airport before, but I just might. Michael kissed the floor of the Puerto Rican airport.”
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The Canadian government has faced abundant scrutiny over its handling of the situation. The bulk of that criticism stems from how long it has taken officials to get Canadians back on home soil.
“I really want to assure everyone who is there and everyone who has loved ones who are there, that we are doing everything we can,” said Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Freeland said she spoke to the British high commissioner and the British foreign secretary to speed up the return of Canadians from Turks and Caicos. She has also spoken to the Dutch foreign minister.
“It’s truly a terrifying situation and I really feel so much for them,” she said.
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“We do have a government plane, a C-17, which will be travelling to the region later this week to bring humanitarian supplies and it will have the capacity to evacuate any Canadians who are left.”
WestJet and Air Canada flights are due to arrive back in the Greater Toronto Area with stranded passengers. They have been subject to delays.
According to Freeland, consular officials will be on board the flights.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Note: “Previously Published on: 12 September 2017 | 1:22 am, as ‘Families of stranded Canadians disappointed by government response to disaster’ on GLOBALNEWS CANADA. Here is a source link for the Article’s Image(s) and Content”.