NEW YORK – As Hurricane Irma – a Category 5 storm with 185-mile-an-hour winds – is headed across the southern Atlantic Ocean, the Department of Foreign Affairs has issued an advisory to the more than 152,000 Filipinos in Florida and the Caribbean.
Weather experts described Irma as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew bearing the same strength as Irma’s Category 5, hit the United States hammering south Miami-Date County in Florida, flattening houses and buildings.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano expressed his concern that Hurricane Irma has been gathering strength in the past few days. “Our kababayans in Florida and other parts of the East Coast and the Caribbean must heed the warnings of weather experts and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.”
Florida has rolled out carefully detailed instructions for evacuations, storm surges, emergency response and power losses.
Cayetano said the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Philippine Embassy in Mexico as well as the Philippine Honorary Consulates in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on standby and are monitoring the storm.
According to the United States National Hurricane Center, Irma is now a Category 5 hurricane that can inflict potentially catastrophic damage in areas along its path. Irma comes a week after Hurricane Harvey unleashed massive flooding in Houston.
Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Chuasoto of the Philippine Embassy in Washington said that aside from Florida, with its Filipino population of 150,115, Irma will cross the following Caribbean islands with a combined Filipino population of 3,607
- Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis
- Saba, St. Eustatius, and Saint Maarten
- Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
- British Virgin Islands
- US Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra and
“We advise all our kababayans along the path of Hurricane Irma to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel until the storm has passed,” said Chargé d’Affaires Chuasoto.
He said the Embassy is in touch with Honorary Consul Henry Howard in Florida and Honorary Consul Fitzgerald Brandt in Port-au-Prince.
Ambassador to Mexico Eduardo De Vega said Irma will also hit Cuba, with a Filipino population of more than 500, and the Dominican Republic with around 100.
Ambassador De Vega said the Embassy in Mexico remains in touch with leaders of the Filipino Community in Havana and with Honorary Consul Limuel Dudalo in Sto. Domingo.
Both Philippine diplomatic posts advised the members of the Filipino communities in the areas to be affected to stock up on food and other emergency provisions, monitor developments, and heed the guidance and warnings of local authorities.
Filipino nationals in areas to be impacted by Irma who may need assistance can call the emergency hotlines of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC at +1-202-368-2767 and the Philippine Embassy in Mexico at +52-155-2771-3776.