Teen trapped by Hurricane Irma critical of Canada's response time
Published Monday, September 11, 2017 7:19PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 12:27PM PDT
A Langley teenager has spent several days trying to get home after being trapped on a small Caribbean island that lay in Hurricane Irma's path.
The 17-year-old boy was visiting a friend and her mother in Saint Martin, a small French-administered territory in the northeast Caribbean Sea, when the storm broke ground last week.
"I didn't know for days if he was alive," his mother Donna Seelig told CTV News.
But Kurt lived through the storm that has so far claimed 42 people in the Caribbean and southern U.S.
The home he was staying in was destroyed, but he and his friend's family survived by huddling together under debris as the windows shattered and the walls came down.
"The hurricane shutters got ripped off, clean off," Kurt said in a phone interview.
"The upstairs bedroom roof just ripped right off… A wall came right down. Fell on us, broke, drywall, metal pipes, everything."
Kurt said he was thankful for the help of the people he'd been staying with, crediting them for his survival and eventual escape.
"I wouldn't be alive today without them," he said.
Kurt, his friend and her mother left the home and made their way to a small airport in the area. They were flown to the nearby island territory of Guadeloupe with help from the French military.
"I owe my life to the French government," Kurt said.
But he and his mother are both critical of Canada's response.
"The Canadian government did absolutely nothing," Kurt said.
"The French were there, the Dutch were there, the British were there, the Americans were there, and the Canadians were there feeling abandoned," Donna said.
The Trudeau Government said there were planes made available to help Canadians get out of the area, but that pilots needed the space to land and in some cases permission to fly back home.
They expect that about 240 evacuees will leave the area on two flights from Saint Martin-Sint Maarten and Turks and Caicos.
More will likely leave on chartered plans, and a military aircraft is being sent to the area.
"We are doing everything we can to get everyone home safely and quickly," said Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs.
Kurt's family is covering the cost of his flight home this weekend, and paying for flights for his friend and her mother who lost everything in the disaster.
"They saved my son's life. They're now part of my family," Donna said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber