Britain Government sends two warships to aid Hurricane Irma victims

Britain is sending two military vessels to assist victims of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and is assigning £12 million ($15.7 million, 13 million euros) in aid, the government said Thursday.

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Britain's HMS Ocean is departing for the Caribbean from the Mediterranean carrying a number of helicopters, a defence ministry source told AFP play

Britain's HMS Ocean is departing for the Caribbean from the Mediterranean carrying a number of helicopters, a defence ministry source told AFP

(AFP/File)
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Britain is sending two military vessels to assist victims of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and is assigning £12 million ($15.7 million, 13 million euros) in aid, the government said Thursday.

Hurricane Irma -- one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record -- has hit the Caribbean with deadly and turned the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin into mountains of rubble.

The British fleet auxiliary boat Mounts Bay carrying 40 Royal Marines was already in the region and was expected to reach affected territories on Thursday.

It will be joined by the HMS Ocean, which is departing from the Mediterranean carrying a number of helicopters, a defence ministry source told AFP.

Medical advisers, reconstruction staff and Royal Marines will also make the trip, the source said.

The Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Office were on "full alert" and doing their "utmost" with a "great wealth of expertise to deploy on this," Duncan also said.

Charter flights tasked with delivering additional supplies as appropriate also stand ready.

Satellite image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Huricane Irma at 1130UTC on September 7, 2017 play

Satellite image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Huricane Irma at 1130UTC on September 7, 2017

(NOAA/RAMMB/AFP)

In a statement released later on Thursday, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed the UK's commitment to respond to the "catastrophic damage" caused by Irma.

Prime Minister Theresa May also held a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, during which they agreed to coordinate responses.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip said they were "shocked and saddened" by the reports of devastation in Antigua and Barbuda.

The queen is the two-island-nation's reigning monarch.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed or adversely affected by this terrible storm," the statement from Buckingham Palace said.

British billionaire Richard Branson, whose private island of Necker was hit by Irma, released a statement on Thursday to say that all the members of his team were "accounted for as safe as well".

"Necker Island felt the effects of Hurricane Irma and sustained extensive damage, the extent of which we are still assessing," the statement said.

"We will do whatever we can to support and assist our local community through this extremely testing time".

Picture released on September 6, 2017 on the Twitter account of RCI.fm shows a flooded street on the French overseas territory of Saint Martin after high winds from Hurricane Irma hit the island play

Picture released on September 6, 2017 on the Twitter account of RCI.fm shows a flooded street on the French overseas territory of Saint Martin after high winds from Hurricane Irma hit the island

(TWITTER/AFP)

In an earlier statement, he had said that he and his team would be hunkering down in his concrete wine cellar to ride out the storm, joking that there would be "little wine left in the cellar when we emerge".

According to the foreign office, there are currently 88,000 British citizens in the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos islands.

British Airways warned that "as the storm continues to make its way across the region, flights to and from the region will be affected over the next two days and into the weekend".

Travel group Thomas Cook said in a statement on Thursday that as instructed by Cuban authorities, they would be evacuating their customers currently in the resorts of Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa.

Irma was packing maximum sustained winds of up to 185 mph (295 kph) as it followed a projected path that would see it hit the northern edges of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday, continuing past eastern Cuba before veering north for Florida.

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