P.E.I. man returning to Cuba to help loved ones recover from hurricane

Just days after arriving home on P.E.I. from Cuba, Gus Cameron is preparing to fly back down to the Caribbean island.

Gus Cameron collecting supplies to help fiancée and other Cubans

Just days after returning home to P.E.I. from Cuba, Gus Cameron is packing his bag to head down again, this time to help Cubans recover from Hurricane Irma. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Just days after arriving home on P.E.I. from Cuba, Gus Cameron is preparing to fly back down to the Caribbean island. 

Cameron flew home from Havana last Friday, just hours before Hurricane Irma ravaged parts of the country. He was planning to fly back Sunday, armed with supplies to help his fiancée, and as many Cubans as possible, recover. 

"Whether it helps one family or 10 families, I'll do my best," he said.

But Cameron has since learned his flight on Sunday to Varadero has been cancelled because, to his knowledge, the airport there is not open.

He is now booked on the earliest possible flight to Havana on Sept. 21.

"I only wish I was there now," Cameron said in an email Thursday afternoon.

Gus Cameron says he hasn't heard from his fiancée since she texted him on Saturday, just as Hurricane Irma was pounding her community near Varadero. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Cameron said he hasn't heard from his fiancée Alina Dreke since Saturday, when she texted him just as Irma was pounding her home near Varedero. 

Phone battery was dying

At the time, Dreke informed Cameron her cell phone battery was dying. 

Since then, Cameron says he has had a brief conversation with one of Dreke's friends, who assured him she was safe, but that the power was out in the area. 

Small things go a long, long way down there.- Gus Cameron

Cameron said he made up his mind to go back to Cuba to help while he was waiting for his flight to Canada last Friday.

He is gathering up as many candles, flashlights, and battery packs as possible to distribute in her neighbourhood. 

"There are little battery packs you can use to recharge telephones, so I'm hoping to gather up quite a few of those, to give to people in Cuba so they can contact their families," he said. "You want to be able to call your mother or grandmother, and I want these people to be able to do that too, to say, 'Oh my goodness, you're safe, that's good.'"

Help any way he can

Beyond that, Cameron is planning to offer his support on the ground however he can — whether it's clearing debris or offering money to those in need.   

"I won't sit still," he said. "Small things go a long, long way down there."

People move through flooded streets in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in Cuba on Sunday. The powerful storm ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of kilometres of coastline after cutting a trail of destruction across the Caribbean. (Ramon Espinosa/The Associated Press)

He doesn't know the extent of the damage in his fiancee's community. But based on the media reports and photos he's seen out of Cuba, he's fearing the worst. 

"I suspect it will be very, very bad," he said. "There are a lot of homes along the coast ... and a lot of them are just wooden structures.  So they'll be gone. And this is not a place like Florida where you can go get a lot of supplies if you have the money.  This will take a long time to rebuild."

'Tremendous people'

Cameron has yet to book his return flight.  He said he'll stay down as long as necessary. 

"I'm in love with a girl down there very much, and I love her family just as much as I love her.  [Cubans] are tremendous people, and I feel inside my heart that I just want to go down there and help out as much I can, to make sure everyone's safe."