Hurricane Matthew: Aer Lingus passengers stuck in Florida following fire at airport
Flight cancelled as hurricane approaches
An Aer Lingus flight from Orlando has been cancelled following a fire, leaving 193 passengers in the state as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
A piece of ground service equipment caught fire while attending to an Aer Lingus aircraft at Orlando Airport yesterday evening, the airline confirmed.
There were no reports of injuries to crew or passengers, although Aer Lingus says it is investigating reports of an injury to a ground company handling staff member.
Aer Lingus flight EI120 from Orlando to Dublin was cancelled as a result of the incident, and all passengers were provided with local hotel accommodation.
"We continue to monitor the situation at Orlando Airport and are working to minimise any further travel disruption to our guests," it said.
Deirdre Carey, from Dublin, told Independent.ie that her mother, Catherine Craig, and Ms Craig's two sisters were passengers on the flight.
“They were on the EI120 flight that was supposed to leave, but then there was a shout of 'fire, fire, run'," Ms Carey said.
"I’ve been trying to get in touch with her since but haven’t been able to. I know she is staying in the Marriott Hotel but I’m not sure which one."
“It’s all up in the air. The airport is due to reopen on Saturday but it all depends on what the hurricane does."
“I am obviously very concerned as it is Category 4.”
Orlando Airport suspends flights
Hurricane Matthew has been pounding Florida with heavy rain, slamming closer to the coast with potentially catastrophic winds of 130mph.
Last night, Orlando Airport ceased all commercial flight operations at 8pm local time, suspending passenger flights "until the weather conditions warrant and the airlines determine it is safe to fly."
Aer Lingus has yet to confirm whether flights between Dublin and Florida will be operating this weekend. Its next flight is scheduled for Saturday.
Last night, more than 80,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power, and Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld were closed.
Ed Kidney, from Cork, who is flying home from the state via Manchester, told Independent.ie:
"It is kind of weird. I have never experienced extreme weather before. We've barely been outside, only to get food. There is nobody on the streets.
"My biggest concern the other day was the fact that Garth Brooks' concerts got cancelled! I just feel that I'm not meant to see this man. He was meant to play yesterday, today and tomorrow.
"I've booked another night in the hotel I was staying in and I'm due to fly home at 07.55 tomorrow."
Hurricane Matthew was expected to hit north of Palm Beach County, before pushing north for 12 hours or so along the Interstate 95 corridor, through Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
Florida governer, Rick Scott, warned locals to brace themselves for "a direct hit".
Aside from immediate safety concerns, it is also feared that Hurricane Matthew could thwart the state's efforts to combat the spread of the zika virus.
As storms recede, they can leave pockets of standing water in vessels and containers - creating ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Almost 1,000 people have contracted the mosquito-borne virus in Florida so far this year, with most of the local infections contracted in Miami Dade.