Air Canada says about 100 Canadians who had been barred by local authorities from a flight leaving Turks and Caicos will now be allowed to fly home.
Hurricane Irma caused extensive flooding in the islands last week, with water reaching above the waist in some areas.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick says the company was planning on using a chartered plane to evacuate 95 Canadians who had been staying on the islands, but civil aviation authorities wouldn’t allow the passengers to board the flight.
Fitzpatrick says the main airport terminal on the islands is closed, but humanitarian flights have been allowed to operate. He says authorities in Turks and Caicos have now agreed to let Air Canada operate the return flight, which is scheduled to leave Monday afternoon.
Fitzpatrick says the Canadians are expected to arrive in Toronto on Monday evening.
Meantime, the federal government says it is ramping up its hurricane response in the Caribbean amid stinging criticism and calls for assistance from Canadians trapped in the region.
A special team from Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence is heading to Antigua to determine what help is needed after the island endured the one−two punch of hurricanes Irma and Jose.
Government officials will also provide an update today on what other Canadian efforts are underway as the scope of the damage comes into clearer focus. One key question will be why the government hasn’t deployed any aircraft to the region, where hundreds of Canadians stranded by the hurricanes have been pleading for help.
Several countries, including the U.S., the Netherlands and the U.K., have evacuated citizens with military aircraft; Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt has slammed the federal Liberals for not doing the same.
The government says it needs authorization to deploy military aircraft to another country, but hasn’t said why that authorization has been slow in coming.