Ottawan worries for family stranded after Irma damage

An Ottawa woman is worried for her daughter and grandchildren stranded in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma caused major damage, and as Hurricane Jose appears poised to strike.

'You hope for the best but it's hard not to think about the worst'

Boats pile up in Paraquita Bay in on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands after Irma struck this week. (Submitted)

Mouzaya Dabboussy, her husband and their two young children heard the warnings about Hurricane Irma and got ready to hunker down.

They got food and water, then moved into the home of a friend next door on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, which has a room made out of concrete.

"They hoped for the best, did all the preparations that they needed to," said Rouba Dabboussy, Mouzaya's mother, in an interview with CBC Radio's All in a Day Friday.

On Wednesday, as Irma's eye was passing Tortola, Rouba got an email from her daughter saying people were starting to lose internet access, and that she likely would lose it soon.

"We're hunkered down, we love you all," the email read.

Mouzaya Dabboussy and Nathan Wong with their two children during a visit to Ottawa. The family is bracing for the arrival of Huricane Jose after Irma caused massive damage to the region. (Painted Turtle Photography)

'We need to get out ASAP'

Rouba didn't hear from her again until about 5 p.m. ET Thursday, when she got a text from someone relaying a message from Mouzaya.

"We're all alive. We need to get out ASAP. Please let Nathan's mom know we're OK. We'll call you as soon we have connection," the message read.

Then, about two hours later, Rouba got a phone call from Mouzaya that lasted about a minute.

"And she was very distressed, saying that the two floors of the villa ... were destroyed, flew off. They were only protected by a mattress in the bathroom and that concrete space," Rouba recalled.

Hurricane Irma continued on a west northwest track Thursday, with Hurricane Jose close behind. The U.S. National Weather Service upgraded Jose to Category 3. (NOAA National Weather Service)

'No evacuation plan'

The roads on the hill they lived on were washed away and the vehicles were gone — presumably blown off the hill — so they started walking toward Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, below.

"And [Mouzaya said] that they walked through the debris and the rubble and the mud down the mountain on foot with the babies ... and that there's starting to be some violence and break-ins, and people seem to be in desperation, there's looting and that kind of stuff. So they're pretty scared," Rouba said.

Mouzaya asked her mother to start calling Global Affairs and embassies for help, but Rouba said her efforts haven't been successful.

"What I've been told so far is that there is no evacuation plan as of yet, that we or they [Mouzaya and her family] should monitor social media. Obviously they can't monitor social media because they have no power, no connections, no internet," Rouba said.

Twitter user Melanie Amaro shared this picture of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. (@ItsMelanieAmaro / Twitter)

'Hard not to think about the worst'

She booked flights for the whole family on this coming Monday and Tuesday, just in case, but the airport in Tortola is currently closed.

"So getting them out of the island seems to be not feasible before Hurricane Jose, which apparently is heading down possibly the same path as Irma. That's tomorrow [Saturday]," Rouba said.

"You hope for the best but it's hard not to think about the worst."