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Knights to the rescue as tanker helps Bahamas clear up after Hurricane Matthew

13 October 2016
Hatchet job… A sailor hacks away at a fallen tree on Andros Island in the Bahamas as RFA Wave Knight helps out in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The tanker broke off her counter-drugs patrol in the Caribbean and made for the islands’ capital Nassau after the storm to see what help the Bahamian Government needed.

Wave Knight has a specialist team of Army Commandos aboard specially trained to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Their numbers were bolstered by the tanker’s own electrical and mechanical engineers and US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment – actually on board Wave Knight for drug-busting duties.

Local authorities asked Wave Knight to fly troops to 36 miles to Andros in her Lynx, assess the damage to the island and fix roofs and electricity generators and components at the Bahamian Defence Force base.

In addition, the helicopter – from 815 NAS in Yeovilton – was called on to ferry food to Andros for both the military and civilian populace (more than 7,000 souls).

Grand Bahama bore the brunt of Matthew’s brutal force but Andros, 100 miles to the south also suffered – although thankfully no-one across the islands were killed.

The work was tiring, demanding a lot heavy lifting was required but the locals were very grateful for our efforts,

2/O Chris Marchan

When the relief parties got to the military bases on Andros – home not only to the Bahamian Military, but also a test centre used by the British and US Navies to assess sensors and systems on submarines and submarine-hunting frigates – they were given their tasks.

While the RFA party concentrated on the base, the Royal Engineers and Coast Guard began driving around the area in a bus, armed with chainsaws and hand tools; each time they came across a road that was blocked by trees and debris or power lines that had trees laying across them, they would clear the route – five roads were re-opened as a result.

“The work was tiring, demanding a lot heavy lifting was required but the locals were very grateful for our efforts,” said 2/O Chris Marchant, Wave Knight’s Communications Officer.

Whilst clearing one of the routes, WO2 Jason Betts was informed of a 79-year-old British expat who had a garden full of debris, so a small contingent of his Royal Engineers team split off to clear it.

Back on the base, the RFA technical team were carrying out assessments and repairs to generators, air conditioning units and other small scale tasks which would have otherwise taken days to fix. Their efforts freed up Bahamian military personnel to focus on helping the local community.

“This was Wave Knight’s first task to a disaster situation this year and although the tasks were not lifesaving, they still were of importance to both the local communities – the Royal Bahamian Defence Force who showed a great deal of appreciation,” said the tanker’s Commanding Officer Capt Nigel Budd.

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