Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th) arrived safely in Chicago on Sunday night after being evacuated from St. Maarten, where she was vacationing when Hurricane Irma hit.

In the days after the hurricane hit the island, causing devastating damage, Martinez remained in frequent contact with her office, successfully securing the evacuation of 146 Americans stranded along with her at the resort where she was staying.

“People were depending on me to keep the pressure on our contacts at home to get us out of there,” Martinez said. “I knew that I had to work to get as many people home with me as I could.”

Martinez took shelter in a bathroom during the storm, waiting for over 4 hours while 200+ mph winds battered the hotel. Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane when it hit St. Maarten, killing at least 27 people on the island.

“You hear how bad a Category 5 hurricane will be, but nothing can prepare you to live through it,” Martinez said. “It was the worst experience of my life.”

In the days following the hurricane, Martinez and others surveyed the damage and made their way to an area with cell phone service where she borrowed a local’s cell phone to call home. There was no power or running water in the aftermath of the storm, and stagnant floodwater posed a risk of infections.

After Martinez’s office established contact with her family and office, they reached out to officials including Gov. Bruce Rauner, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Senate President John Cullerton, Kenneth Romero of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, and Luis Davila-Pernas from the Office of Puerto Rican Federal Affairs in Washington D.C. They in turn worked with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló and Senator Carmelo Rios on an evacuation plan, and by Saturday, Martinez and the other Americans were in Puerto Rico awaiting flights home.

“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring us home,” Martinez said. “Without those efforts, I don’t know if we would have made it out when we did.”

The Department of State along with the Dutch and French embassies continue their efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens remaining on the island.

Category: News Releases

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