Seniors with Cape Breton ties not heard from since Hurricane Maria struck Caribbean

Mary and Tony McCann, in their 80s, have been living on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Their son Bryan says the last time he spoke with them was before Hurricane Maria struck last week.

Son desperate to contact parents, Mary and Tony McCann, in Puerto Rico

Bryan McCann has been trying to get a flight to Puerto Rico to see if his parents are safe following Hurricane Maria. (submitted by Bryan McCann)

An elderly couple with ties to Cape Breton hasn't been heard from since Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean last week, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Mary and Tony McCann, who are in their 80s, live in Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico.

Mary is originally from Inverness, and has 15 brothers and sisters, many of whom still live in Cape Breton.

Their son, Bryan McCann, lives in Columbia, S.C. He last spoke to his parents just before Hurricane Maria reached the area.

"They were a little thrown off because it grew in size so quickly," said McCann. "But she said that their house had survived Hugo in the past, which was pretty much a direct hit 20 years ago, and she said they had stockpiled as much dry goods and water as they could in a rather short period of time."

Cellular and landline service down

McCann said he has been calling and texting his parents' cellphones "every couple of hours" without success.

He's also called several emergency agencies, including the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). No one has any information on his parents.

McCann said there are just two satellite telephones on the island — one at an upscale resort, the other in the mayor's office.

People walk on the street next to debris in Guayama on Sept. 20 after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

"Mom and Dad wouldn't know what a sat phone is, and wouldn't know where to go to use it. So unfortunately, there's just been zero contact with them directly."

Home still standing

McCann said he takes some comfort from aerial photographs of Vieques that were taken by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plane after Maria hit.

"I was able to zoom in on my parents' house. It is still standing perfectly," said McCann, adding that it is a sturdy concrete house.

In the meantime, McCann said he's concerned that very little relief aid is making its way past Puerto Rico to Vieques.

He and his brother have been planning to fly to Vieques since Hurricane Irma hit the island in early September. But their flights have been cancelled several times.

McCann is now scheduled to fly there later this week. He's hoping his parents are simply carrying on, unaware of how worried the rest of the family is.

"They've been through a lot in their life," said McCann. "To them, we're guessing, this is probably just one more challenge. They're really not the type to go out of their way to send up a flare." 

About the Author

Wendy Martin


Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at