More than 300 Canadians have asked government for help in wake of Hurricane Irma

Officials say more than 300 Canadians have reached out to the Canadian government for help as Hurricane Irma turns its force on Florida after cutting a path of destruction through the Caribbean.

9,000 Canadians registered with Global Affairs Canada are in the current path of the storms

A woman takes a photograph on the beach in Hollywood, Fla., on Saturday, September 9, 2017, with blowing winds and threatening skies in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Officials say more than 300 Canadians have reached out to the Canadian government for help as Hurricane Irma turns its force on Florida after cutting a path of destruction through the Caribbean.

"We have people who are stuck in a country or an island who just can't get out," said one Global Affairs Canada official. "There are no flights getting in or out. They're frustrated. They're trying to see if there are other ways of getting out.

During a briefing Saturday for reporters, officials said they were not aware of any deaths among Canadians.

"What we're advising is, first and foremost, follow the advice and instructions from local authorities," the official said. "Stay put until it's safe to move out and also stay in contact if you can."

Sunday evening, Global Affairs said 348 Canadians were asking for assistance.

2 hurricanes making evacuations difficult

A lone bottle of water sits on empty supermarket shelves in Kissimmee, Fla., as last-minute shoppers make final preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma's expected landfall. (Gregg Newton/Reuters)

Complicating matters is the presence of Hurricane Jose in the area.

"Just as soon as you think you can get people out and planes are ready to land, we can't because the next hurricane barrelling down," said an official.

Global Affairs Canada is aware of more than 9,000 Canadians that are in the current path of the storms. That number doesn't include Canadians who haven't voluntarily registered with the ministry. 

The officials said they are considering all options when it comes to getting Canadians out of the affected area.

The federal government took the first step Sunday night towards deploying the military disaster response team. The vanguard of the highly-trained unit, which provides humanitarian assistance, will depart for Antigua on Monday, according to an official in Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office.

That assessment team, which also includes officials from Global Affairs Canada, will recommend what capabilities, if any, Canada should deploy to the region.

Canada's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team is also ready to be deployed, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC News on Saturday. 

In situations like this, the government first looks at what commercial flight options are available and co-ordinates with its international partners, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, France and the Netherlands, about planes they have available in the area.

During the 2004 hurricane season, the government chartered flights to evacuate Canadians, but the official said that hasn't been necessary so far during Hurricane Irma.

"We do believe people will be getting out in fairly short order," said one of the government sources.

Military assistance is also a possibility, but that would require more discussion with the Department of National Defence.

Since about Sept. 4 the department's emergency watch and response centre has fielded 1,500 calls and emails regarding the hurricanes.

Global Affairs says Canadians in Florida can email sos@international.gc.ca for information or call 1-613-996-8885.

Nearly seven million people across Florida were under evacuation orders and more than 50,000 people were seeking shelter Saturday in schools, community centres and churches.

With a file from Murray Brewster