More than 100 Filipinos from hurricane-devastated islands in the Caribbean are being brought home amid the threat of another devastating storm, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.
The repatriation is the first that the Philippines undertook as a result of a natural disaster and the first to be carried out in the Americas, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said the Philippine Airlines Airbus A340 chartered by the DFA 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 Saint 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 stop in San Francisco before flying 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," 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 also reiterated its advisory for the more than 1,000 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," Chuasoto said.