The Royal Navy delivered drinking water and made repairs as the Turks and Caicos Islands recovers from damage caused by Hurricane Fiona.
The storm caused extensive damage and disruption on the Caribbean archipelago last week, especially on islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay to the east, bringing flooding and widespread damage to critical infrastructure. This left many islanders without electricity and drinking water.
In the wake of the tropical storm, patrol ship HMS Medway and the Fleet Tanker RFA Tideforce sailed for the British Overseas Territory to offer assistance and help provide reassurance.
Between the ships and the Crisis Response Troop of 24 Commando, vital drinking water has been delivered to remote areas, the prison’s generator was repaired, and the airport’s perimeter fence fixed enabling critical flights to restart.
Medway, which is on a long-term mission to the Caribbean to provide a reassuring presence and deliver disaster relief during the hurricane season – later sailed for the tiny island of Salt Cay at the south-eastern tip of the archipelago.
There, with the local water plant out of action, nearly 600 liters of water was delivered.
HMS Medway then set off in pursuit of the latest storm of the 2022 hurricane season, Ian, currently affecting the Cayman Islands, after handing over to Tideforce on Saturday.
The tanker and her on-board Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron continued to support the Governor and National Emergency Operational Centre who were in charge of the recovery efforts.
Since Saturday, more drinking water has been delivered by air, a technical team provided assistance and advised on electrical power challenges on Grand Turk, and the Wildcat lifted Turks and Caicos Regiment troops and their equipment from remote areas and islands.
Lieutenant Commander Phil Barron, Wildcat Flight Commander, said: “The helicopter and its embarked Royal Navy Air Engineers and aircrew provide a critical capability that RFA Tideforce can bring to bear.
“Being able to deploy at short notice, at range and in all weathers – to ensure those people affected by this hurricane have the support they need – is an extremely rewarding and uplifting experience.”
Air Engineering Technician, Matt Eaton, of 815 NAS who landed ashore, said: “Being on my first deployment with a ship that is at held high-readiness, we are ready to provide assistance where necessary and I was privileged to meet some of the Salt Cay islanders and help ensure they have access to the most basic needs such as water.
“Seeing the aircraft that I help maintain in action is something I’ll never grow tired of.”
The island’s government is now moving on from its crisis and recovery phase with focus now being directed on resilience and preparation for the rest of the hurricane season.
“It’s been humbling to see up-close the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona, and we’re proud to have been able to help those affected,” said Commander Chris Hollingworth, Medway’s Commanding Officer.
“We’re fully committed to our role providing critical aid and supporting Overseas Territories in their recovery throughout the hurricane season.”
“This is the first chance we’ve had to test ourselves during the deployment,” said Corporal Rob Briggs from the Crisis Response Troop, a group of specialists the Royal Engineers.
“Although we’ve rehearsed this response in Montserrat and Anguilla, it’s different doing it for real. I’m really glad we were able to offer our support, and that things weren’t as bad as they could have been.”