A St. John's woman is relieved her sister and parents have made it safely out of hurricane-ravaged Sint Maarten, but is questioning the response by Global Affairs Canada in the days afterward.
Erika Parrill's family, who is from Pasadena, were in the Caribbean Island last week helping her sister Allison get set up for her first year of medical school. After Hurricane Irma struck, Erika had trouble contacting them with only sporadic texts from her father from Wednesday through the weekend.
Then on Monday, all three were finally able to board a chartered flight organized by Allison's university to Chicago.
"It was a real roller coaster for them," Parrill said on Tuesday.
"They were lining up at the airport in Sint Maarten for a couple of days and were denied boarding by quite a few other flights. I think there was a lot of chaos with the local authorities working with the commercial airlines that were trying to evacuate people."
Parrill said at one point her parents and sister tried to board a U.S. military aircraft, but were refused because they wern't American citizens.
Questioning Global Affairs Canada
She said even though all three of her family members registered with Global Affairs Canada well before Irma made landfall, she couldn't get any answers from them in the days following the storm's arrival.
"It's been really touch and go and incredibly frustrating," she said.
"I couldn't get answers from them. The silence was deafening from Global Affairs Canada."
CBC contacted Global Affairs Canada for a response to Parrill's concerns and did not get an immeadiate response
Parrill said 70 per cent of all structures in Sint Maarten were destroyed by the hurricane, and her sister doesn't even have a medical school to return to there. She said her parents are now helping her get settled in Chicago, where all students are being redirected to for their classes.
Threats of violence
It's been a harrowing experience for her parents, and Parrill said her mother — a recently retired nurse with Western Health — even helped spearhead a makeshift hospital at the university shelter where they were staying before they managed to catch a flight.
"People were trying to break in with guns and machetes to try and steal some of the supplies that they had to help the injured at the university," she said.
In the meantime, Parrill has set up a fundraiser to try and help offset some of the unexpected expenses that are associated with having to move her sister's medical school education from the Carribean to Chicago at the last minute.
"The help and support of friends and family across this island has been incredible," she said.