Local student returns home to her mother after Hurricane Maria ravages Dominica

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Dominica evacuee returns home: Jeannette Reyes reports during Action News at Noon on September 25, 2017. (WPVI)

The death toll has risen to 27 on the Caribbean island of Dominica, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

That word came Monday, even as a local resident who was studying on the island arrived home in the Delaware Valley.

Action News was at Philadelphia International Airport as Dareen Sardar and her mother embraced, emotional and grateful beyond words for a reunion they feared might never happen.

Dareen is a medical student at Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica.

The nation of 75,000 people was ravaged by a ferocious Category Five Hurricane Maria.

"It turned into Category Five so quickly that I think no one was really expecting any of this to happen," she said.

Sardar and her friends hunkered down bracing for Maria. What she remembers the most is the haunting whistle of the merciless winds.

"You don't really understand it until you are there," she said. "I was scared that something just flies and goes into the window."

Meanwhile back at home, her mother's world came to a halt.

Sanjuila Sardar had lost all communication with her daughter.

Three seemingly never-ending days dragged on. She called off from work, she sobbed, she prayed.

"There would be times when I would be crying on and off for I don't know how long," she told Acton News. "My other kids at home would come and try to give me strength."

24-year-old Dareen was finally able to evacuate on a ferry.

She took at 14-hour trip to Saint Lucia, then took a plane to Miami. Eventually she was able to call home.

"I didn't get to talk to her until Friday for about 10 seconds," she said. "And that was the best ten seconds of my life, ever."

With her daughter safe and sound at home, Sanjila Sardar now also carries a renewed sense of gratitude.

"Never take life for granted," she said. "Keep your loved ones. Even if they are far off, keep them very close to you."

Dareen said her school was heavily damaged by the hurricane, and now she says she is not sure if she will go back once the repairs are complete.
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