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Air and sea aid response to Irma and Maria

TORTOLA: September 22, 2017. With Hurricane Maria causing structural damage and power outages as it passes the Turks & Caicos islands, Royal Navy helicopter ship HMS Ocean has arrived in the British Virgin Islands today as part of the UK government's response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The ship arrived with 650 personnel and 60 tonnes of aid loaded in Gibraltar including construction equipment, hygiene kits and water purification tablets.

Mexifloat from RFA Mounts Bay near Grand Turk 1 According to UK Defence secretary Michael Fallon, there are now over 2,000 UK military personnel working on the relief effort, making it the largest such deployment anywhere in the world.

Captain Robert Pedre, commanding officer of HMS Ocean said his ship's company included hundreds of highly skilled personnel including engineers, logisticians and medical professionals drawn from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

Already pre-positioned in anticipation of the current hurricane season, the 16,000 tons British support ship RFA Mounts Bay has been providing support to several Caribbean islands since Irma first struck on September 06. The UK government said it has committed £57 million to the relief effort and so far delivered 75 tonnes of aid by sea.

Meanwhile Antonov Airlines has joined the Caribbean hurricane response effort with a flight from Châteauroux, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe with 105 tonnes of portable generators from French power company EDF.

The generators will be used to provide electricity to Guadeloupe and Saint Martin, both of which were severely affected by Hurricane Irma.

"The aircraft was in Cairns, Australia at the time the charter was confirmed which meant we had to respond promptly to move it halfway around the world," said Antonov Airlines' representative Paul Furlonger.

"This is the first in a series of flights that will deliver humanitarian and relief cargo to the Caribbean from the governments of France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom," he added.

Also supporting the British government response this week was UK-based CargoLogicAir that used a B747-400 freighter to fly to Barbados with 70 tonnes of bottled water plus 40 tonnes of ready meals for UK troops assisting those affected by the two hurricanes.

(Pictured: Mexifloat from RFA Mounts Bay carrying road contruction equipment near Grand Turk, British Virgin Islands.)

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