There has been further media coverage today about Hurricane Maria which is hitting islands across the Caribbean.
This is only the second time two category five hurricanes have been in the Atlantic at the same time - with Hurricane Irma already the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade - and the devastation has been catastrophic.
Hurricane Maria has now passed Dominica with sustained wind speeds of 160mph. Early indications suggest at least 7 people have died while up to 90% of buildings have been damaged and 100% of the population affected. This was the first category five hurricane to hit Dominica in living history.
The UK is sending out a team of DFID and FCO experts, along with the Caribbean Disaster Agency and United Nations Disaster Assessment and Co-ordination as soon as possible to urgently assess the damage.
To date, 75 tonnes of DFID relief items have either arrived or been procured in the region including much needed food, water, nearly 3000 shelter kits, 5000 solar lanterns and 10,000 buckets to help victims of this disaster. This is alongside military assets and personnel deployed to the region.
UK experts on the ground are working closely with national authorities to get people to public shelters and secure loose materials and debris which could cause further injuries, as well as on longer-term plans to deal with the hurricane’s aftermath. Already we are prepositioning aid supplies including shelter kits to prepare for the torrential rain and winds.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said:
This is an unprecedented crisis with two hurricanes of such brutal force hitting the Caribbean in less than a fortnight.
Families have lost their homes, lives have been ripped apart, and the victims of Hurricane Irma are now facing the new threat of Hurricane Maria.
But they should know, the UK government is working flat out to put the right supplies in the right places to cope with the fallout from this new hurricane.
To date 75 tonnes of DFID aid has arrived or been bought in the region, including food, water and nearly 3,000 shelter kits.
40 tonnes of humanitarian aid has already been distributed including over four tonnes of food and water on the British Virgin Islands; 720 litres of water to the Turks and Caicos Islands; and over two tonnes of building materials to Anguilla.
A further 60 tonnes of supplies are on the way to the region on HMS Ocean, and DFID has chartered a number of flights and vessels which will transport additional relief items to the affected islands.
A 34 person aid team, over 1,300 military personnel and 59 police officers are working in the region on the UK’s response.
Chris Austin, Head of the UK Task Force, added:
We have partners in Dominica ready to provide assistance, and the Caribbean regional agency for disaster management has pre stocked supplies – we’ll be looking at how we can best reinforce those from today.
Maria is now going to move north and it’s most likely going to have further impact on the islands that were affected by Hurricane Irma. We’ve had both civilian and military working around the clock to provide emergency relief including shelter, food and water.
I’ve been hugely impressed by the resilience and fortitude of the people I have met so far and it’s our obligation in the team to match their resilience and stamina. I know all of the people here are very much up for it.
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