Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK Minister of State for the Overseas Territories has been meeting with UK military personnel this week to see for himself the preparations they’ve made ready to support people living in the OTs if a hurricane hits.
The UK is responsible for the safety and security of its fourteen Overseas Territories (OTs) which includes helping those in the Caribbean and North Atlantic to prepare for and respond to the annual threat of hurricanes.
Speaking to Royal Navy sailors on board RFA Lyme Bay, the sister ship of RFA Mounts Bay which has been assisting both the BVI and the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the minster learnt how the UK was prepared well in advance of this year’s hurricane season to have measures in place to support the OTs. These include:
- Making sure large volumes of emergency equipment like communications equipment, and supplies are ready;
- Positioning assets in the region including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, RFA Mounts Bay, and the new Foreign Office/Cayman Islands-funded helicopter for regional deployment;
- Making sure there’s risk insurance in place for the OTs under the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund (CCRIF);
- Maintaining specialist teams who would co-ordinate the response if called upon;
- Running a joint exercise with the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to test the response
- And strengthening the capacity of the Red Cross in the OTs as a key delivery partner;
Speaking on board the RFA Lyme Bay, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad said: “The UK will always honour our commitments to the British Overseas Territories and that includes standing ready to act if a hurricane hits. We’ve already seen how quickly our Royal Navy were able to respond when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas earlier this month and it’s reassuring to know they’re ready to step in if we need them again this year.”
RFA Mounts Bay has been stationed in the Caribbean since June 2017 and as part of its duties while there the ship and its crew are ready to deploy to help those living in the British Overseas Territories if a hurricane hits.
The ship was first on the scene after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, delivering critical aid supplies including hygiene kits, emergency shelter kits and water, as well as the Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter on board which airlifted supplies, conducted reconnaissance flights and assessed damage.
His Excellency the Governor Andy Pearce said: “The recent tragic losses suffered in the Bahamas at the hands of Hurricane Dorian are another reminder of the risks faced by island communities in the Caribbean from these powerful and unpredictable storms each year. As Montserrat knows well, we can’t stop the hurricanes, but we can be ready to protect ourselves against them. Our Disaster Management and Coordination Agency (DMCA) do a great job. Be ready, it only takes one” is rightly their and our by-word. The commitment of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay to support us in the event of a hurricane hit is a huge reassurance. We know her well from her regular visits, and were not surprised to see her swiftly in action giving stalwart support to the Bahamas. Our thoughts and prayers are with their people.”