Saturday 24 February 2018

Irma: Man decides to ride out hurricane in Florida after airline refuses to let him fly with dog

Matt Vargas with his beloved dog Mika
Matt Vargas with his beloved dog Mika

Jeff Farrell

A man who was trying to flee from Hurricane Irma was told by an airline that he couldn’t board a flight with his dog – so he decided to ride out the violent storm instead.

Matt Vargas was preparing to jet out of Miami, Florida as millions are leaving the state ahead of winds raging up to 155mph that are swirling towards its southern coast.

He rushed around to at least 10 pet shops to buy a carrier for his dog Mika – aware that it is the rule to cage an animal before it can travel in the hold area of a plane.

He failed to get one as the stores were all out of stock, so decided to chance his luck and arrived at Miami International Airport to buy a plane ticket with his pet in tow.

But workers at the only airline with available seats out of Miami turned him away.

He eventually decided to return home to the Kendall area of Miami and brave Irma rather than abandon Mika because of the policy.

Departing passengers form a long queue to check in at Orlando International Airport ahead of Hurricane Irma making landfall, in Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton
Departing passengers form a long queue to check in at Orlando International Airport ahead of Hurricane Irma making landfall, in Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Mr Vargas said: “I waited an hour in line and I don’t have a pet carrier – and they won’t let me on without a pet carrier.

“So I’m heading back just to ride out the storm.”

Read More: 'One of the most frightening things we could imagine' - Irish newlyweds stranded in Florida as Hurricane Irma closes in

It came as Irma is swirling towards the south of Florida with winds reaching up to 155mph, leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean that claimed at least 13 lives.

Some 100,000 people refused to leave their homes in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit the city – with nearly half (44%) saying they didn’t want to leave their animals behind, CNN reported.

Lawmakers passed legislation after the 2005 catastrophe which ruled that state chiefs who want to draw down emergency funds for a crisis must include pets in their disaster plans.

Millions are fleeing from Florida after a mass evacuation was ordered in low-lying parts of the state as Irma is expected to batter its southern coast this weekend.

Governor Rick Scott warned in a news conference: "You do not want to leave on Saturday, driving through Florida with tropical storm force winds."

Independent News Service

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