I awoke this morning saddened by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and concerned for those in Florida and the southeastern United States who will be affected by this storm. Our condolences are with those who have lost so much, including their loved ones, from the destruction of Hurricane Irma.
At times like these, I am reminded to "look for the helpers," and in my case, I do not have to go far to find them. Yesterday, employees from the State Department’s San Juan and Dallas Passport Agencies assisted in the evacuation of U.S. citizens from St. Maarten. The employee from the San Juan Passport Agency was particularly selfless, as he undertook these actions despite the fact that he and his loved ones had also been affected by the storm. As of this morning, more than 1,200 U.S. citizens have been evacuated from St. Maarten since Friday.
I have also seen my colleagues in Washington approach this situation with ingenuity and determination. As the Department was reaching out to hotels in the Caribbean to assist American citizens affected by the storm, two of my public affairs colleagues – one of whom has family facing the storm in Florida – reached out to Airbnb, and as a result we were able to assist additional U.S. citizens in the region. We are grateful for Airbnb's cooperation in these efforts.
On September 7, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and The Bahamas, and these disaster experts are now coordinating with local authorities and humanitarian organizations on the ground to deliver vital humanitarian assistance. You can learn more about DART's efforts and ways you can assist by going to usaid.gov/irma.
These are just a few examples of the many helpers across the State Department and USAID who are working to assist those affected by the hurricane. Since Tuesday, our embassies have issued security messages and also travel warnings for the affected countries to inform U.S. citizens of the storm and to recommend that they begin making preparations to either depart or to shelter in place. The State Department has regular contact with our embassies to ensure that we have the latest information on our operations, U.S. citizen needs, and disaster assistance plans. We are communicating also with foreign authorities. In terms of our embassy operations and travel warnings, we continue to update information for U.S. citizens on the Hurricane Irma page at travel.state.gov and also through our emergency and security messages.
We are continuing to monitor the path and also the impact of Hurricane Irma as the situation continues to evolve. We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens who are overseas. U.S. citizens abroad who require assistance in areas affected by Hurricane Irma or their loved ones can call 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. & Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (from Overseas). They can also go to the Department's Task Force Alert page, tfa.state.gov, or email IrmaEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Please go to travel.state.gov and follow @TravelGov on Twitter for updates and more information for U.S. citizens abroad affected by Hurricanes Irma and Jose. If you are in the United States, please go to fema.gov and hurricanes.gov for the latest information.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with those affected by Hurricane Irma, their loved ones, and all who are working to help them.
About the Author: Heather Nauert serves as State Department Spokesperson. For more from Heather, follow @StateDeptSpox on Twitter.