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Destruction complicates efforts to bring Canadians home from Dominica: feds

View of damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Roseau, Dominica, on Sept. 20, 2017.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

The devastation wrought by hurricane Maria is hampering plans to evacuate more than 150 Canadian students from the storm-ravaged Caribbean island of Dominica.

Damaged infrastructure, non-functioning airports and a lack of communication are frustrating efforts to get the students home, said Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.

"The situation in Dominica continues to be difficult," Alghabra said Friday.

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"The communications are down. Airports are dysfunctional, so we are unable to land any aircraft there."

About 150 Canadian students are stranded at the Ross University School of Medicine, with about a dozen more at a different post-secondary institution on the island, Alghabra said.

The Liberal government is in constant contact with school officials, he added.

"The universities are arranging for boats to transfer these students to St. Lucia," said Alghabra, where a consular official is waiting to help. "We will offer services or assistance when they arrive and then arrange for their return home."

Even that plan is taking some time, he noted, because debris around the island is making it difficult for boats to reach it.

Global Affairs Canada issued a statement Friday evening saying it is now aware of a total of 210 Canadians in the region who are asking for help, mainly in Dominica.

The department said it has not received any reports of death or injuries to Canadians.

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Alghabra said he understand families are feeling anxious as they wait for their loved ones to get help.

"Obviously, the anxiety is justified, because their loved ones are still on the island, but we are doing everything we can to get them out of there as quickly as possible."

That is one reason he said government officials are trying to keep the families in the loop as much as they can: "Information is gold, to reassure them."

Maria struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in over 80 years.

Hurricane Maria wreaks havoc across Caribbean (Reuters)
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