In a successful race against time, the Philippines today evacuated more than a hundred Filipino hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico just hours before another devastating storm slams into the American territory.
“We praise and thank God for the successful rescue and repatriation of our hurricane-stricken kababayans from the Caribbean,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said from New York where he is attending the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We made a promise to bring our people home and they will be soon,” Secretary Cayetano said, adding that the repatriation is the first the Philippines undertook as a result of a natural disaster and the first to be carried out in the Americas.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola reported to Secretary Cayetano that the Philippine Airlines Airbus A340 chartered by the Department of Foreign Affairs made it out of Puerto Rico on schedule.
According to Undersecretary Arriola, Philippine Airlines flight No. 8115 left Puerto Rico at 10:50 am with 132 Filipinos who were earlier rescued by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. from the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Sint Maartens that were devastated when Hurricane Irma ripped across the Caribbean last week.
Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Chuasoto said the flight carrying the repatriates will make a technical stop in San Francisco before making the onward flight to Manila where it is expected to arrive on Wednesday.
“It was really a race against time as we had to make sure the plane takes off before Hurricane Maria slams into Puerto Rico,” Chargé d’Affaires Chuasoto said.
He said a four-member team from the Embassy that was dispatched to carry out the rescue and repatriation will also be on board the flight.
The Embassy, at the same time, reiterated its advisory for the more than one thousand Filipinos in Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean to brace for Hurricane Maria.
The category 4 to 5 hurricane is expected to directly hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday with destructive winds of 257 kph and violent storm surges.
The hurricane will also affect Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the US Virgin Islands that are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
“We strongly reiterate our advice to the Filipino communities along the path of Hurricane Maria to prepare as best as they can, follow the directives of local authorities, and track the storm’s progress,” Chargé d’Affaires Chuasoto said.
– DFA Office of the Secretary
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