A British university has stepped in to allow more than 700 medical students and staff to continue their studies – after they were displaced from their Caribbean island by Hurricane Irma.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is responding to the crisis by welcoming the students to Preston, where they will continue their medical degrees.
The majority of the students, from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) in Dutch St Maarten, had to shelter for a week at the university after Irma hit.
UCLan Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mike Thomas said: “What’s happened to their island and the whole of the Caribbean is utterly devastating
“We pride ourselves on being a university that is always willing to help our community, be it local, regional, national or international.
“This situation is our chance to offer help to people whose lives have been turned upside down through a natural disaster.”
Nathaniel Minigh, 25, one of the students victim to the disaster, was forced to spend six days sheltering in AUC’s hurricane-proof building along with 700 others, reported the The Guardian.
During this time, they bravely turned the building into a makeshift hospital to treat casualties of the 185mph (298kph) force.
“I don’t use the term crisis lightly. It was devastation at the highest level,” Minigh said.
“As much as we prepared for the hurricane, we hadn’t seen anything on this scale before, and as soon as we saw the destruction we knew straight away that we wouldn’t be able to go back to campus.
“We’ve all been through a lot and we’re looking forward to settling into life at UCLan and continuing our studies.
”It’s been a long process getting us off the island. That was the biggest concern, to make sure everyone was safe.”
Another affected student, Ricardo Barranon, 30, told The Guardian: ”The next step was getting us back into school. We’re in the business of making doctors; we want to be doctors.”
The rescued students will continue their studies on evenings and weekends to avoid disrupting the existing university timetable.
The operation was organised by UCLan in only nine days, due to the university having links with AUC, which is based on the destructed island.
Rico Barronon, President of the AUC Student Governors’ Association, said: “We are all incredibly grateful to UCLan for welcoming us to Preston.
”We are looking at our time at UCLan as a new adventure and I am sure we will be well taken care of.”
UCLan has also been praised by current students and alumni members for their response to the crisis.
The displaced students are expected to return to their island of Dutch St Maarten between January and July next year.