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The UK is continuing to step up its military support to the Caribbean Islands left devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Named Operation Ruman, on Friday nearly 300 UK military personnel equipped with aid supplies left the UK to provide immediate relief to people who have seen their homes destroyed.

Departing from RAF Brize Norton, a C17, Voyager and A400M aircraft carried over 200 Royal Marines, as well as Engineers and specialist personnel from all three Services, medical supplies and aid including emergency shelter kits, rations and clean water. Amongst those deployed were the 40 Commando Royal Marines and 3 Commando Brigade.

The aircraft have now landed in Barbados, as part of the UK Joint Taskforce in Barbados. The taskforce will use Barbados as a hub to distribute aid. The C17 continued its journey onto the US Virgin Islands – the island with the only usable runway in the region – with 85 personnel on board.

On Saturday, another C17 left from Brize Norton carrying a Puma helicopter and the UK is planning to send another Puma to the Caribbean tomorrow.

In addition to the arrival of the aircraft, RFA Mounts Bay has also reached the British Virgin Islands, with a Wildcat Helicopter embarked conducting reconnaissance flights and a helicopter to help deliver supplies and aid. Her crew will help with structural repairs and restabilising communication.

The 16 Royal Engineer Commandos, deployed from Mounts Bay, are also providing key support to the British Virgin Islands including to the Governor who has made clear that his priority to restore law and order and to put vital communications are in place. They are also working hard to clear runway, making it serviceable and allowing for further aid to reach the islands.

In addition to the support offered by RFA Mounts Bay in the Caribbean, HMS Ocean was also diverted from her tasking in the Mediterranean to the Caribbean in order to bring the help the islanders get back up on their feet after the hurricanes have passed. HMS Ocean will embark equipment and aid at Gibraltar on passage to the Caribbean today.

Aid has also been supplied from DFID’s disaster response centre at Kemble Airfield in Gloucestershire, including 10,000 UK aid buckets and 5,000 UK solar lanterns. This aid is will reach those in need in the next few days by the quickest and most effective route possible.

According to the media release quoted below, this is what’s been done so far:

  • RFA Mounts Bay, our first military response, patrols Caribbean waters for 6 months of the year during the Hurricane season (June to November). Its crew are in a high state of readiness to be able to swiftly provide humanitarian and disaster relief, which they have already delivered to Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
  • The Prime Minister announced a £32 million relief fund to support the humanitarian effort and the UK was the first country to arrive on the scene. In addition to this, the UK government is also doubling all public donations made to the British Red Cross appeal.  
  • A team of British humanitarian experts has been in the region for a week working with authorities and directing the humanitarian response.
  • HMS Ocean is also being deployed and will help with the reconstruction after the hurricane. Additional UK government staff are on standby to provide assistance once the hurricane has passed.
  • There are just under 500 troops currently in the region, made up of marines, engineers, medics and specialists, including Army and RAF personnel.
  • A C17, Voyager and A400M aircraft carried over 200 Royal Marines, as well as engineers and specialist personnel from all 3 Services. They have provided medical supplies and aid including 2.2 tonnes of UK aid shelter kits providing shelter for almost 1,000 people, rations and clean water. A total of 10,000 UK aid buckets and 5,000 solar lanterns have been dispatched.
  • Amongst those deployed were the 40 Commando Royal Marines and the 3 Commando Brigadiers, 8 DFID humanitarian experts, 10 FCO Rapid Deployment staff as well as humanitarian experts funded by UK aid.
  • Two members of the UK police cadre, who offer support to the military in times of international crisis, flew out on Friday and a further 53 British officers, from 14 police forces are due to fly out on Sunday.  
  • Ambassador to the US has deployed teams of staff at airports in the affected areas of the USA. They are providing advice and support to British nationals in Florida and issuing emergency travel documents.
  • UK-US Network is liaising closely with the US authorities to get British nationals to safety.
  • The Foreign Office has set up a hotline for those concerned about friends and relatives affected by the hurricane: +44 (0)20 7008 0000.  At their request, taking all emergency calls for the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands on this number.

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