UAE evacuates citizens in Florida as Hurricane Ian ravages state

Total of 141 Emiratis flown out of different parts of Florida to Washington

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As Hurricane Ian battered Florida, the UAE on Thursday began to evacuate its citizens from the southern US state.

The UAE embassy shared photos of the evacuations on Twitter, showing a number of Emiratis arriving in the capital, Washington.

“As per UAE leadership's directive and supervision of ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE embassy in Washington, DC, evacuated Emiratis from Florida to the US capital to ensure their safety from Hurricane Ian,” the embassy tweeted.

Its deputy chief of mission Shaima Gargash and Brig Gen Rashid Al Kaabi led the effort on the ground and received the evacuees in Washington on Wednesday night.

Ms Gargash said that they had less than 24 hours to evacuate everyone who could be in Hurricane Ian’s path to safety and that most of the UAE citizens were receiving medical treatment.

"In these instances you never know whether or not the hurricane will actually hit, but you always take the worst-case scenario to ensure that our nationals are safe,” she told The National.

“We made sure that we provided all the necessary facilities to accommodate for wheelchairs and other disabilities."

Talal Salim Al Sabiri is no stranger to the evacuation drill. "We are always blessed with the government’s decision that takes everything into consideration,” he said. “Everything is taken care of. They've asked us if we need any special treatment.”

They will be staying at a hotel in the area at the embassy's expense.

In a press release, the UAE embassy said 141 Emiratis had been evacuated.

“The evacuation plan included various means of transport to transfer the UAE nationals out of Florida: chartering a private plane [for 119 evacuees], booking seats on commercial flights [for 13 evacuees], in addition to having people drive out of Florida [9 people drove private cars], where they were safely evacuated to Washington, DC,” the embassy said.

The plan was developed by the embassy’s Emergency and Crisis Committee, which included embassy employees as well as people from ​​various technical offices, scholarship agencies and other organisations.

Due to bad weather and difficulty in finding commercial flights to the US capital, the evacuations in some cases were made to various neighbouring states deemed to be out of the hurricane's path.

“Our embassy ensures that we are taking all the necessary precautions to safeguard the security and safety of the UAE nationals in the United States,” Ms Gargash said.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday and has left a trail of destruction in the south-west, flooding streets and knocking out power for more than 2.5 million people.

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in US - in pictures

Updated: September 30, 2022, 4:49 AM