Canadians stranded in Puerto Rico to be evacuated on Friday – National

Canadians stranded in Puerto Rico to be evacuated on Friday - National

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Canadians stranded on the hurricane-devastated island of Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to leave on Friday courtesy of a commercial cruise ship being dispatched to San Juan, the federal government has confirmed.

Ottawa has announced a scheduled departure for the Royal Carribbean cruise ship from San Juan for 5 p.m. local time on Friday. Canadians are being asked to bring limited luggage, and are being told they will not be charged for the trip.

But at least one worried mother says her daughter will probably miss the boat.

Marika Versailles told Global News that she was informed by email early Wednesday afternoon about the planned evacuation by sea.

WATCH: Officials warn death toll in Puerto Rico could rise if supplies don’t arrive soon

Versailles said she had been unable to reach her adult daughter, Cody-Anna, to inform her of the ship’s departure location and time. And in order to reach the ship, she added, Cody-Anna and her boyfriend would need to take a highway from their current location in the island’s northwest region to the capital in order to register and get on board.

READ MORE: Trump has harsh words for Puerto Rico as it loses power and its hospitals crumble

That trip normally takes two hours by car, but the local infrastructure and highway systems have been devastated by the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Officials at Global Affairs were also not able to guarantee 100 per cent that the pair would get on the ship if they didn’t arrive in time to register ahead of 5 p.m., Versailles said.

“Where they are now, their little community, apparently they’re doing OK,” she noted.

“If they leave where they are and they’re stuck in San Juan, which by all accounts is just pure misery … they find themselves in an even more desperate situation.”

WATCH: Canadians stranded by Hurricane Maria frustrated with government inaction

The young couple travelled to Puerto Rico days before the hurricane struck, and registered their travel plans with Global Affairs even though, at the time, the storm hadn’t even been given a name. The hurricane achieved Category 5 status within hours of graduating from a tropical storm.

Complicating matters in Maria’s aftermath is the lack of commercial air traffic into or out of Puerto Rico, where the main airport suffered significant damage.

READ MORE: Maria’s devastation shuts down Puerto Rico economy, residents running out of money

Canadians stranded on the island and wishing to leave were instructed to contact commercial air carriers this week, Versailles noted, in spite of the fact that government-organized planes have been dispatched to other hurricane-ravaged nations in the region.

On Wednesday morning, she was told by American Airlines that their earliest available commercial flight would not take off until Oct. 9.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands is warning that there is already false information spreading about who can get on the “mercy” cruise ship, which will make several stops before heading for Florida.

“One such post purports that you can email Royal Caribbean Cruises directly to secure a spot on the vessel. This is categorically false,” the commissioner noted in a web post.

“Additionally, there is no online registration for this cruise. Anyone who registered using a Google Form that has been circulating will not be accommodated on the basis of that registration.”

Global News reached out to Global Affairs Canada on Wednesday afternoon for additional information about the number of Canadians stranded in Puerto Rico, and the government’s current advice for them and their families. The department has not yet responded.

Meanwhile, food, clean water, money and medical supplies are quickly running low in Puerto Rico. The American commonwealth is home to 3.4 million people, and local officials are warning of a worsening humanitarian crisis on the island, which has been largely without power for a week.

Backup generators in hospitals have failed, and others are running out of diesel fuel. Phone, cellular and internet services have virtually disappeared.

Canadians requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the nearest Canadian government office in person. If they have access to phone and/or internet, they can contact Global Affairs Canada’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 1-613-996-8885 or by email at [email protected]

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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