19 Trinis who had to be evacuated from Dutch St Maarten to Antigua in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s devastation are to return home soon. Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Fernandez gave this confirmation yesterday as he praised the Trinidad National Helicopter Services who rose to the occasion in assisting in the evacuation of residents from Barbuda and St Maarten.
He said the helicopter service was able to evacuate about 50 people from St Maarten on Monday, including several children who sat on their parents laps. These included 19 Trinis, five Antiguans, four Dominicans and several Barbadians. While it was not confirmed by TT Foreign and Caricom Affairs, despite requests made by Newsday, Fernandez said several Trinidadians returned home on Monday and others were expected yesterday. The minister said some of the people being evacuated were experiencing problems because they did not have travel documents with them.
“There are road blocks because of what is happening now. People who do not have travel documents or passports are having difficulty in getting past the road blocks. The King of Netherlands visited the Dutch section of the island, St Maarten on Monday and security was quadrupled,” Minister Fernandez said. Fernandez added that TT evacuees were being housed at the Halcyon Cove and Courtsland Hotel in Antigua. “We are not sure if they have the funds to come out so we are getting their names and sending it to the TT Government to approve for them to go out on a flight to Trinidad. The minister said even before the evacuees even arrived they processed them by name and meals and water were provided for them at the hotels at the cost of the Antigua/Barbuda government. Contacted yesterday, TT’s Ag Foreign Affairs Minister Stuart Young said the government is continuing to evacuate nationals from Tortola. He said an official request had been sent to the British Government requesting assistance for nationals in the British Virgin Islands. Asked if TT would be offering any financial aid to the besieged islands, Young said the TT Government had not given any active consideration to that. “At this stage we have not addressed that and TT ourselves are in constrained financial circumstances, so we sent a helicopter with crew and we are assisting as best as we can,” Young said.