Saint-Barthémely students in Quebec relieved to hear from home in wake of Hurricane Irma
'It's hard to wait and just do nothing,' says student in aftermath of tropical storm's destruction
As Hurricane Irma continues to cut a swath of destruction, some students from Saint-Barthémely in Quebec are relieved to hear from their loved ones after being out of contact with their island home since Wednesday.
Mateo Miceli, 16, a student at Collège Saint-Bernard in Drummondville, said he could barely sleep while waiting for his parents to contact him after the hurricane ripped through his island home early Wednesday.
"It was agony," he said, "because we knew that if the hurricane was going to hit, that there would be consequences, but we didn't know what kind of damage it would bring."
As of late Thursday, the Category 5 storm has flattened islands in the Caribbean, leaving at least 11 people dead and thousands homeless. Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthémely are among the hardest hit.
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Miceli waited 14 hours to hear from his father, who sent a text message on Thursday morning to let him know the family was okay. Their home is intact, although high winds knocked down nearby poles and ripped the roofs off neighbouring buildings.
"It's a relief," said Miceli. "It's a very, very big relief to know that everything is okay."
'It's not easy'
There are 25 students from Saint-Barthémely at Collège Saint-Bernard.
Frédéric Malette, the director of student services, said most have now been in contact with their relatives, but some are still anxiously awaiting news.
"It's not easy, but we are focusing on believing that everything is going to be okay," he said, adding that it's likely some people on the island have dead cell phones so aren't able to get in touch.
"We know that there is no electricity on the island right now."
While most students were unable to sleep or rest as the storm wreaked havoc on the Caribbean, Malette said the school made preparations as soon as administrators heard of Hurricane Irma's approach a week ago.
There are psychologists and school counsellors on hand. They also focus on the health of the students and their loved ones — and not the physical damage to the island and to their homes.
"We have that help that is there 24/7," said Malette.
While that help has been crucial for Juliette Arviset, 17, she said the last day has still been difficult for her and her fellow Saint-Barthémely students.
She was relieved to hear from her father earlier this afternoon but describes the island as being broken after the storm.
"It's our island, our family, our friends," said Arviset. "And it's just hard to wait and do nothing."
With files from Alison Northcott