Now home safe, Ottawans who fled Irma worry for those left behind

Two Ottawa women say they're relieved to be home after escaping Caribbean islands ravaged by recent hurricanes, but worried for the communities they've left behind.

'I was helped and I want them to get help, too'

Joey Schulman's small Mexican restaurant near Cul-de-Sac Bay in Saint Martin, shown before it was completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma (Facebook)

Two Ottawa women say they're relieved to be home after escaping Caribbean islands ravaged by recent hurricanes, but still worry for the communities they've left behind.

Joey Schulman's restaurant on Saint Martin was destroyed by Hurricane Irma last week. After losing contact, her frantic family in Ottawa finally learned Monday she was on a flight home.

Schulman has lived on Saint Martin for the better part of three years, and was a frequent visitor prior to moving there when she worked in the cruise industry.
Before the hurricane, Joey Schulman had lived on Saint Martin for the better part of three years.

"I went to my restaurant and that's when I saw there was no hope of rebuilding. Then when you start seeing the island you realize that the rebuilding is going to take many, many years," Schulman said.

Schulman returned to Canada with $100 and two small knapsacks full of her belongings. Now that she's home, she's still concerned for those she left behind.

"I was helped and I want them to get help, too," she said.

Schulman said many of her friends and regular customers lost their homes. Communication is also a problem, she added, with power out and networks down across the island.

"People will panic less if they get information," she said.

'Like a war-torn country'

Mouzaya Dabboussy and her young family have a similar story.

They left their home in Tortola, British Virgin Islands with little more than a bit of clothing and her two-year-old son's Buzz Lightyear doll.
Mouzaya Dabboussy and her family hunkered down in a small concrete room on the island of Tortola as Hurricane Irma passed. Dabboussy, top, holds six-month-old son Noah, two-year-old son Zachary is on her right, and partner Nathan Wong is in the foreground. (Submitted)

"It's hard to process it unless you've seen it. It literally looked like a war-torn country," she said.

"The infrastructure is so damaged, and it wasn't in great condition to begin with. How do you go back when there's no electricity? How do you go back when there's no water?"

Dabboussy donated the contents of her organic food business to friends in need before leaving Tortola.

"I just gave away most of it," she said.

This photo shows the remains of Mouzaya Dabboussy and Nathan Wong's bathroom after the British Virgin Islands were struck by Hurricane Irma. (Submitted by Rouba Dabboussy)