Family in St. Maarten reeling from Hurricane Irma now in danger from Maria

'I'm terrified for them, I don't know if they're going to survive,' mother says

Nina and Dante Gill

Nina Gill, aged two, and her brother Dante, five, earlier this month in St Maarten. (submitted)


An Ontario woman, worried sick about her Canadian son and his young family going through their second hurricane in St Maarten, feels the Canadian government should have acted faster to bring them to Canada. 

Kieron Gill, his Trinidadian wife and their two children, aged two and five, recently moved to the island to run a beachfront restaurant.

Then the Category 5 Hurricane Irma battered the island. Speaking by phone from Cambridge, Ontario, Gill's mother Nina Deshane said the Canadian government wasn't able to fly them to Canada before this latest storm, Hurricane Maria.

As of Tuesday night, St. Maarten was under a tropical storm warning as Maria was headed toward Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"I'm terrified for them, I don't know if they're going to survive," Deshane told CBC News.

She said the family was told by Global Affairs to go to the airport on Saturday to be flown out, but then they were turned away at the airport, told that only Dutch nationals were being flown out.

CBC News has only spoken briefly with Kieron Gill via text messages, due to communication problems on the island.
But Deshane says the family is struggling, without enough food or water. 

Aliyah Gill, Dante Gill, Kieron Gill, Nina Deshane, Nina Gill (baby)

Nina Deshane, front with her daughter-in-law, son Kieron Gill and his family in this undated family photo. (Submitted by Nina Deshane)

"They have just a very tiny amount of food: energy cookies for the children, just a small amount of jam," she said, adding that she doesn't know how to help them from so far away. 

"There are a few grocery stores open," she explained, "but they have no money ... and I can't send them money because there are no banks open."

Deshane says the family has been staying in a house that was damaged during Hurricane Irma. They got through the storm by huddling together in the bathroom, she says.

"[My son] said that the windows imploded and that the doors blew in. There's just shattered glass everywhere. There's no sewage, no water running, no nothing."

Delay due to 'documentation issues,' government source says

A Canadian government source, who requested anonymity, told CBC News the family's case is unusual and more complex, due to documentation issues.

Kieron Gill told CBC News via text that his two-year-old daughter is not a Canadian citizen and her visa expired last month. Deshane said in addition, her daughter-in-law does not have a Canadian visa. 

"I'm not telling them to give [my daughter-in-law] a long-term visa or to give her immigration status," she said. "Evacuate the family. Give her three months or six months but let her come with the children. They're traumatized enough."

The source said the Canadian government "is actively working on bringing the family to Canada" as soon as possible.

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