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Commandos batten down the hatches on South Caicos as Hurricane Maria nears

Op Ruman
20 September 2017
Commandos and Canadian sailors are preparing homes and public buildings on South Caicos so they can withstand Hurricane Maria.

The lethal storm - a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds of over 150mph - is expected to skirt the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday having left a trail of destruction across the central Caribbean.

Early today the storm passed the British Virgin Islands, where a 40 Commando-led task group has been helping Britons rebuild homes, services and public utilities for the past ten days.

The full force of Maria luckily missed the islands - the hurricane hit the St Croix in the US Virgin Islands head-on before making landfall in Puerto Rico.

But the BVI were still battered by winds in excess of 60mph and torrential rain; at Maria's height, an inch of rain fell in just three hours.

Like the British Virgin Islands, South Caicos was badly affected by Hurricane Irma, which smashed its way through just a fortnight ago.

A team of British and Canadian military personnel - the latter from the frigate HMCS St John's - have spent five days on the small island, which is home to around 1,500 people.

 
It's now a matter of securing as much as they can before the next hurricane hits, but a key part to their mission will also be to reassure the locals and carry on the mantra of being here to help

Lieutenant Steve Dunning Royal Navy

Initially they worked to clear debris and restore essential services, but over the past 24 hours news of Maria's approach has meant a shift in emphasis to shoring everything up.

The focus of the entire force is now on replenishing food supplies, securing roofs and discussing how to deal with Maria and the help the military might be able to offer once the wind and rain has died down.

A six-man team from 40 Commando even revisited their previous careers, using roofing skills from earlier jobs. Swapping semi-automatic rifles for claw hammers and tacks, they completed six roofs in five days.

Royal Marines and Engineers from 24 Commando Regiment RE have worked tirelessly alongside the crew of HMCS St John's to re-establish water supply, electricity, medical supplies and food so that locals can rebuild their cherished island.

Water pumps, treatment plants, schools, government buildings and a huge debris amnesty is to name but a few of the outstanding achievements of the multi-national task force.

"It's now a matter of securing as much as they can before the next hurricane hits, but a key part to their mission will also be to reassure the locals and carry on the mantra of being here to help, helping the population, where and whenever they can," said Lieutenant Steve Dunning RN.

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