Government is doing all it can, through its various agencies as well as in partnership with regional and international partners, to bring home TT nationals who have been stranded in Caribbean countries which were affected by Hurricane Irma last week. This was the word yesterday from Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young as Irma bore down on Florida. He told Newsday the National Security Minister, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry have been working assiduously with various agencies to come up with "a plan and a strategy" to bring TT citizens stranded in other Caribbean islands home.
He said the agencies in question are the TT Defence Force (TTDF), National Helicopter Services Limited (NHSL) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM). Young explained a major component of these activities is gathering precise information as to the exact location of TT citizens in the islands affected by Irma. The minister said the TTDF is putting in place potential options for evacuating TT nationals from these locations if necessary.
Young also said Government is aware of TT citizens being stranded in non-Caricom territories such as St Maarten and the British Virgin Islands(BVI) which were affected by Irma. He said there is ongoing dialogue with TT's regional and international partners as to how to reach these people. Sunday Newsday yesterday reported on the plight of members of the Ramtoole family who have been trapped on the island of Tortola in the BVI.
At a news conference at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre last Friday, Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert said TT would not be providing assistance to foreign colonies/dependencies in the region but only its Caricom neighbours. Imbert indicated that an NHSCL helicopter which was on a "private mission" in Dominica for a regional telecommunications company was dispatched to Antigua and Barbuda, to assist in relief efforts there for one week. He said there has been conversation with the Antigua and Barbuda government about assisting in the rebuilding of structures on Barbuda which was devastated by Irma.
Young said no decision has been taken on this as yet. In a statement issued last Friday, the Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry called on nationals and or family members in the affected territories to forward their names, dates of birth, passport bio-data and contact information to the ministry as soon as possible. The information can be emailed to email@example.com. Contact can also be made by calling 1-868-715-2154. Anyone wishing to provide assistance to the affected countries can contact the ODPM at emergency number 511 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.