Seventeen Kootenay teenagers who survived the deadly earthquake in Haiti are expected back on Canadian soil today after being rescued by the military.

They were to be flown to Montreal last night.

“I’m just incredibly relieved,” said Joyce Ouellet, whose 17-year-old son Blake was stranded with his Mount Sentinel high school classmates in rural Haiti, where they had planned on helping build a goat farm.

“I can’t wait to see him. It was horrible at first, not knowing where they were ... how they were feeling, what they were going through. It’s all speculation until you actually hear from them.”

Ouellet said Blake called once while she and her husband were out of the house, and he spoke to his older brother.

“He said Blake is very shaken up. He’s been through a rough ride but he can’t wait to get home. I can’t believe, looking at some of the pictures, that not one of them was hurt. I’m so thankful no one was hurt or killed.”

The South Slocan-area students had landed in Port-au-Prince four hours before the earthquake hit, and spent the next five days sleeping in a field outside the Mission where they were supposed to be volunteering.

They were afraid the tin structures available to them would collapse if hit by a strong aftershock.

“I think these kids will have a lot to remember and they’ve grown up — they’ve become adults. It’s changed them forever,” said Ouellet.

“I’m very proud of (Blake). I know I’ll be crying and hugging him and just wanting to not let him go for a long time.”

Death toll
• Officials are estimating the total death count to be between 50,000 and more than 100,000 people.