SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced on Sunday that flights to transfer US citizens from the islands of St. Maarten and St. Thomas will resume after the devastating passage of Hurricane Irma.
The Governor’s Office said in a communique that it is expected that starting at midday on Sunday, flights with 130 passengers each would begin arriving every 90 minutes at San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport.
The last flight – according to estimates – will arrive about 8 pm.
Since Saturday, the government of Puerto Rico, in cooperation with the US Department of Health and Human Services, has managed to transport 1,280 refugees San Juan from the two islands in the Lesser Antilles.
It was reported that 90 percent of the passengers were people holding US passports and the rest were tourists who had been stranded on those islands and were trying to get to their final destinations.
Of the 1,280 people who arrived in Puerto Rico on Saturday, just eight needed economic assistance from the federal government, and the majority were able to pay for their stay in San Juan hotels.
Given that situation, Rossello said that the passengers arriving on Sunday who could not pay for their own hotel rooms would be designated refugees to guarantee their safety.
The governor emphasized that because Puerto Rico is US territory, the island has become the closest staging area for rapid response efforts during the storm emergency.
The transport effort is being undertaken in coordination among different local public agencies, along with the federal government.
Rossello said that federal acknowledgement of Puerto Rico as the rescue operations center for the nearby islands shows that the San Juan government prepared adequately for the emergency brought by Hurricane Irma.