Hurricane Irma: Hundreds of animals airlifted out of the Virgin Islands

Hundreds of animals were airlifted in a private chartered jet from their homes on the US Virgin Islands which were left devastated by a pair of catastrophic hurricanes.

Dismayed as Hurricane Irmawhirled toward St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, Sali Gear who grew up on the islands but now lives in Virginia, swooped in to help some of the archipelago’s dogs and cats.

She told the WAVY news channel that it was a "herculean effort to save these animals."

Ms Gear, who runsIsland Dog Rescue in Virginia Beach added that when she "watched Irma build up, I called the shelters ahead of time and said ‘hey I’m here for you.’”

Her organisation arranged for a charter jet to transport animals to the safety of Virginia Beach free of charge, an effort that the The Virginian-Pilot reported to have cost around $112,000 - some of it from donations. Norfolk Airport chronicled their arrival.

From there, Island Dog Rescue ferried the rescued dogs and cats to a farm for safekeeping. Two days after the flight touched down with its feline and canine cargo, Island Dog Rescue posted on its Facebook page that every animal had found a new home.

Other posts on the Facebook page testify to an outpouring of community support for the relief effort. One written the morning after the animals arrived said the organization didn’t need any more donations of food or water.

Even as the region sifted through the damage from Irma, which killed scores of people in addition to flattening houses and knocking out electricity for millions of people, Hurricane Maria churned toward the Virgin Islands and imperiled animals again.

Ms Gear wrote on Facebook that a shelter on St Croix was destroyed - bur fortunately, had been emptied of critters. “The shelter was practically EMPTY because YOU helped us get all those animals off the island! You should feel blessed,” Ms Gea