Bringing Canadians stranded by Irma home is a ‘top priority’: Freeland

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Published Monday, September 11, 2017 6:59AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 11, 2017 1:11PM EDT

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says rescuing Canadians stranded by Irma is a “top priority,” amid criticism of how Ottawa has been handling the situation.

“We are working hard to get a lot of people home today,” Freeland said at a government briefing Monday.

She said some commercial rescue flights were scheduled to bring Canadians back from Turks and Caicos and St. Maarten later on Monday.

“This is a truly difficult, truly frightening situation,” Freeland 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.”

Ottawa evacuated 390 Canadians from St. Maarten over the weekend, government officials said. A West Jet flight is headed to the Caribbean island and hopes to bring another 150 Canadians to Toronto, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said.

Air Canada also plans to bring back 90 passengers from Turks and Caicos on Monday, he added.

Freeland said the government has increased staffing at its emergency response centre in Ottawa in order to field all the calls from stranded Canadians and their worried relatives.

The centre has so far processed 2,140 calls and emails. There have been no reports of serious Canadian injuries or fatalities in Irma’s path.

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Bringing Canadians stranded by Irma home is a ‘top priority’: Freeland

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