Op RUMAN Ready for Hurricane Maria
UK Armed Forces in Position for Next Caribbean Hurricane
Already deployed on Operation RUMAN following Hurricane Irma, UK aid experts, military assets and relief supplies remain in the region and are ready to respond to Hurrican Maria.
The UK is in position to respond to further extreme weather in the Caribbean as the approaching Storm Maria is reclassified as a hurricane. The hurricane comes less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded.
Hurricane Maria is classed as Category 5, with winds of upto 160mph (260km/h). At 21:15 AST, yesterday, it reached Dominica. Early reports suggest that the island has been devasted. The Hurricane is continuing towards Puerto Rico.
UK experts on the ground are working closely with national authorities to prepare for the approaching hurricane. Staff, military assets and relief supplies remain in the region and are ready to respond.
DFID, alongside other government departments, are already working on plans to deal with the hurricane’s aftermath and are in close contact with Governor’s offices. This includes efforts to get people to public shelters and secure loose materials and debris which could cause further injuries.
Chris Austin, the Head of the UK’s Joint Task force, said:
We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning for the worst. We need to demonstrate our own resilience because there is a real chance that Hurricane Maria may significantly impact on our existing efforts to provide relief.
Emergency COBR Meeting in Whitehall
The Minister for the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, spoke following the COBR meeting on how the UK government is preparing in advance of Hurricane Maria:
I’m back in the Crisis Centre because once again we’ve had another meeting of COBR, which is our emergency committee, because we’re looking at an unprecedented sequence of events where having had so many hurricanes there’s now a serious danger that we’re going to get yet another.
So we are tracking Hurricane Maria and as you can see behind me we’ve got all the details to see where it’s going, and we have to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. But one of the consequences of having these earlier hurricanes is we’ve got a lot of people and equipment in place.
So what we are very vigorously doing now is trying to anticipate where the damage might lie, and pre-positioning supplies and all of the equipment that can lead to the maximum resilience for these poor people who’ve been hit once and might be hit again.
So we are focusing of course on our Overseas Territories, which on this occasion might include Montserrat, which was lightly affected last time, but we are working around the clock to do our very best. And I’d urge everybody to follow the travel advice which we are regularly updating.
Be assured that we are doing our utmost to anticipate where help is needed and to make sure that if this hurricane hits people, and hits them again, we will be there to deliver the need that people will want.
The meeting was chaired by the First Secretary of State, Damian Green, who also made a statement:
We remain concerned that Hurricane Maria, which is strengthening as it approaches the Leeward Islands, could hit the UK’s Overseas Territories in the Caribbean already affected as well as Montserrat. FCO, DFID and military teams are working closely with the Governors in the Overseas Territories to ensure we are doing all we can to support the Governments of the islands affected.
Operation RUMAN So Far
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, 5,000 hygiene kits and 10,000 buckets.
A further 60 tonnes of aid and reconstruction materials is 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.
The UK is also leading the way in the long-term reconstruction of islands hit by Hurricane Irma. At the 72nd session of the United Nations the UK will confirm that whilst relief effort will go on, plans are being put in place to help rebuild on the islands, more resiliently than in the past, so a future hurricane will not be as devastating.
UK aid is already having a significant impact on many of the victims including Dorothy, a victim of Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands, who said:
I was so happy when the soldier told me yesterday that my house was the first house that was fixed. He said that they had given people things to fix their houses but my house was the first house that a soldier came and fixed. I said God I’m blessed.
I was the happiest person on earth because I was very sad because I had lost everything. With whatever people give me, or what I can get myself, I’ll fix up my place so it looks like somewhere I can live.
Getting Ready for Maria
Over 1,300 military personnel are in the affected region – either on the islands already affected or in locations from where they will be able to readily deploy once Maria has passed. An additional 42 strong military resilience team has been deployed forward to British Virgin Islands prior to Hurricane Maria ready to support additional needs there. A military reconnaissance team has been put on standby to go to Montserrat to assess need if it is hit by Hurricane Maria.
DFID has established logistics hubs in the Dominican Republic, Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda to ensure swift supply of relief items if required and is procuring additional supplies from Miami and Panama.
HMs Ocean, which is due to arrive in the region at the end of the week, with 60 tonnes of DFID supplies on board will be deployed according to need once Hurricane Maria has passed.
On the basis of the latest weather forecast, the British Government advises against all but essential travel to Montserrat and Anguilla and against all travel to the British Virgin Islands.
Source: MOD (Crown Copyright, 2017) with additional reporting.
Image: RFA Mounts Bay Mexifloat on its way to Grand Tuck with 40 Commando Royal Marines and 59 Commando Royal Engineers on Operation RUMAN, followign Hurricane Irma (Crown Copyright, 2017).