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Philippines fast tracks repatriation of Irma victims in Caribbean

CORRECTS DAY - This photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Virgin Gorda's Leverick Bay in the British Virgin Islands, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. Caribbean Buzz Helicopters via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs has sent a team to Washington DC to oversee the rescue and repatriation of stranded Filipinos in hurricane-hit British Virgin Islands.

More than a hundred Filipinos in the Caribbean have been affected by Hurricane Irma.

DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola will head the five-member team to hasten the repatriation of some 136 Filipinos stranded in the British Virgin Islands, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

Personnel from the Philippine consulates general in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago will join the team from the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

"The team will be bringing emergency relief supplies and make arrangements for repatriation of the stranded Filipino, possibly via chartered aircraft," Cayetano said.

Cayetano noted that more Filipinos have requested to be repatriated from the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma swept through the region several days ago.

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No Filipinos have been reported among the casualties of the hurricane in Florida, according to Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Patrick Chuasoto.

"The Embassy remains in touch with leaders of the Filipino Community in affected areas and continues to update relatives of those affected and the public on ongoing efforts to assist affected kababayans," Cayetano said.

The Filipino communities in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Sint Maarten have coordinated with the Philippine Embassies in Washington and The Hague, Netherlands to assess the needs of their members.

Filipinos in Puerto Rico have been assisting the response team from the embassy while those in the US and Canada have expressed their intent to help by planning fund and relief drives in the wake of the hurricane's anticipated onslaught in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm as the massive hurricane zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

The hurricane's maximum sustained winds weakened to 85 mph (135 kph) with additional weakening expected.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Tampa and moving north-northwest near 15 mph (24 kph). 

RELATED: Hurricane Irma gives Florida a coast-to-coast pummeling

— with Associated Press

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