Surrey resident Manpreet Takhi is safely home at being stranded by Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten. (Photo: Submitted)

Surrey resident Manpreet Takhi is safely home at being stranded by Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten. (Photo: Submitted)

Two local residents stranded by Hurricane Irma find their own way home

Balraj Mann, stranded in Cuba, and Manpreet Takhi, in St. Maarten, got home without fed’s help.

SURREY — One local who was stranded in the Caribbean by Hurricane Irma is back home – no thanks to the federal government – and, at press time, another was on his way – again, no thanks to the federal government.

Both Balraj Mann, stranded in Cuba, and Manpreet Takhi, stranded in St. Maarten, had to rely on sources other than the Canadian government.

By Wednesday, the federal government had brought 992 stranded Canadians back to Canada on commercial flights, but no figure was available for Surrey residents.

Mann landed in Toronto Wednesday afternoon, looking at a four-hour layover to take him to Vancouver, after buying a ticket on an Air Canada flight from Cuba, where he had been vacationing when the hurricane hit.

“It’ll be great to be back here, right,” he told the Now-Leader from Toronto. “It was quite an experience, I’m glad we’re out of there.”

Earlier this week Mann, a director on Surrey’s Board of Trade, described what it was like in Cuba, with falling trees, waves “jumping” over a seawall. “The whole street, for a couple of blocks, was just full of water, up to three, four feet high so they had to evacuate the people from hotels.”

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Did he get out with help from the Liberal government?

“We did it ourselves,” Mann sighed. “Air Canada finally showed up with a plane.

“They didn’t do much,” he said of the federal government. “I’m not too happy, I’m pretty disgruntled.”

Anita Hubermann, CEO of the board of trade, said she’s glad her friend “was able to get a flight and come home. Balraj had indicated there were a lot of Canadians at the airport when he was waiting, so obviously there’s a lot of Canadians there. His daughter goes to school in Florida, and she was stuck there too.”

Meanwhile, Manpreet Takhi, who lives in Panorama Ridge, could not be reached Wednesday as he was still sleeping off the ordeal after arriving in Vancouver late Tuesday night. He had been stranded in St. Maarten.

Manpreet had just finished his first day in medical school, at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), when Hurricane Irma hit “and destroyed the whole country,” said his brother, Aman Takhi.

“In the news it was said WestJet sent a rescue jet there, but believe it or not, the university themselves hired a private charter to evacuate their students,” Aman said. “That private charter actually landed before the WestJet flight, my brother got on to that charter flight and it flew them out. I mean, that was the best story we heard all week. We were so glad.”

The university flew Manpreet to Chicago, and Aman bought him a ticket to fly him home from there.

“I got him an American Airlines flight. I paid for it, that was no problem.”

He said the university might pick up the tab for the Chicago-Vancouver flight too.

“It was a godsend. The university did a wonderful job, they gave him full accommodations. They went above and beyond for my brother and the other university members there. They were well taken care of — they had doctors, if needed, if anyone was in shock or traumatized from the events.”

“The school went above and beyond,” he said. “I don’t want to talk-down the Canadian government any more; whatever is done is done, right. They are sending flights now, continuing flights down all over the Caribbean, which is great news, shiny commercial flights. Which is great news, but that charter plane landed first, and they just got on there.

The government is taking flak for not responding sooner to help Canadians stranded by the hurricane. Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole on Monday called on the government to immediately send Royal Canadian Air Force planes to retrieve Canadians stranded by last weekend’s hurricanes.

John Aldag, Liberal MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, told the Now-Leader on Monday that helping the stranded was a “huge priority” for the Trudeau government.

“There have been efforts reaching out,” he said. It takes time and we’re working as quickly as we can.”

tom.zytaruk@ surreynowleader.com

 

Balraj Mann, a director of the Surrey Board of Trade, was flying home at press time after being stranded by Hurricane Irma in Cuba. (Photo: Submitted)

Balraj Mann, a director of the Surrey Board of Trade, was flying home at press time after being stranded by Hurricane Irma in Cuba. (Photo: Submitted)