Saturday 23 September, 2017

McClean: Government making headway with Irma evacuations

John Whitney is embraced by family and friends at Grantley Adams International Airport this afternoon after being evacuated from Tortola.

John Whitney is embraced by family and friends at Grantley Adams International Airport this afternoon after being evacuated from Tortola.

Barbadian authorities are doing their best to overcome red tape and logistical challenges to bring Barbadian nationals home from territories devastated by Hurricane Irma.

This is according to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Maxine McClean, who was speaking live on CBC News Evening News tonight. She emphasised that the process of repatriating Barbadian nationals in Irma-hit territories is a difficult one.

She said the Ministry has to coordinate with multiple sovereign nations of varying languages and legal systems in a situation of “extreme severity” where telecommunications access is limited and the ability to move around is hampered by curfews in place in some territories to curb lawlessness.

The Foreign Minister said that given the extreme conditions it took some time to bring some people home but the local authorities have been working collaboratively with regional and international partners.

Twelve Barbadians came in this evening from the British Virgin Islands on a British military aircraft that brought UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to Barbados in transit to other parts of the region.

And according to Senator McClean, another two Barbadian nationals are expected later tonight on an RSS flight with CARICOM nationals.

“It’s a slow process but we are working very hard. It was really a relief to see the group this evening – I met with them. They were obviously very anxious to get home because they were in some extreme conditions,” said Senator McClean.

She noted that as ports open things would get easier but her office would be looking at how they can speed things along in the future.

“This is something that is unprecedented and we will very quickly try to do an assessment of how we can improve. I do not think that we have seen anything of this proportion in the region and indeed the hemisphere. It is an extreme form of disruption of the lives of people. Speaking to the people who came in this evening, they have gone through hell.”