Safe and Sound: CAF evacuates Canadians from Dominica following Hurricane MARIA

Douglas Charles Airport, Dominica. September 24, 2017 – A Canadian evacuee is escorted onto a CC-130J Hercules aircraft during Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA. (Photo by HMCS St. John’s Air Detachment)

Douglas Charles Airport, Dominica. September 24, 2017 – A Canadian evacuee is escorted onto a CC-130J Hercules aircraft during Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA. (Photo by HMCS St. John’s Air Detachment)

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By Captain Matt Zalot, Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA Public Affairs Officer

Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean nation of Dominica and left a trail of devastation in its wake. Already in the area and conducting humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s transited to the island. The crew quickly began saving lives and alleviating the suffering of those affected by Maria’s fierce winds, torrential rains, and mudslides.

While the bulk of these efforts involved transporting food, water, and supplies, clearing roads, and removing debris, the embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter was responsible for another high-priority task: the successful evacuation of two Canadian citizens whose home was destroyed by the powerful storm.

HMCS St. John’s provided an excellent platform for helping to distribute aid and coordinate relief efforts, but the ship was only one part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to the region. The ship worked closely with Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the federal department leading the disaster response, and the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team (CDAT).

HMCS St. John’s became aware of two stranded Canadians that were in their mid-70s and running low on food, water, and medication. To make matters worse, their house near Roseau, Dominica, was badly damaged and they had no means to leave the mountainous region they lived in.

In an incredible stroke of luck, a CAF CC-130J Hercules aircraft was in the area delivering essential supplies to the Douglas Charles Airport in the northeast of the island before departing back to its base of operations in Barbados.

After conducting a reconnaissance mission in Roseau, the Sea King air detachment met with the CDAT team, picked up a nearby member of GAC (who could provide the couple with necessary diplomatic clearance to leave) and extracted the Canadians from a sports field near their isolated home. They were airlifted to the airport. From there, the couple flew on the Hercules to Barbados and then completed the rest of their journey back to Canada. The timely actions of the entire team were necessary to ensure the safe repatriation of the stranded Canadians.

Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA is delivering a rapid Canadian Armed Forces response that is flexible enough to make an immediate positive impact on the ground, and to continue helping people as the situation develops. HMCS St. John’s completed its support to disaster relief efforts on September 30, 2017 and began its return home to Canada.

Image gallery

  • Roseau, Dominica. September 24, 2017 – Canadian citizens talk with a member of Global Affairs Canada before being evacuated from the island as part of Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA. (Photo by HMCS St. John’s Air Detachment)
  • Douglas Charles Airport, Dominica. September 24, 2017 – A Canadian evacuee is escorted onto a CC-130J Hercules aircraft during Operation RENAISSANCE IRMA MARIA. (Photo by HMCS St. John’s Air Detachment)
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