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Royal Marines begin clear-up in the wake of Hurricane Maria

Op Ruman
21 September 2017
Royal Marines were clearing the streets of the British Virgin Islands while the tail-end of Hurricane Maria still battered them.

As soon as it was safe to leave their shelters where they hunkered down as winds of 60mph hammered the British Overseas Territory yesterday, the men of 40 Commando got stuck into the clear-up operation.

With heavy rain and driving winds through the night it was crucial that remote and main routes on the central island of Tortola were cleared of debris and unblocked if flooded.

The commandos also needed to find out how the latest storm had affected the local populace so aid could be distributed where it was needed most.

Assault engineers, armed with shovels, chainsaws or simple brute strength, and members of 40 Commando's intelligence section were deployed to scour the length and breadth of Tortola.

The assault engineers, who have been worked relentlessly over the past ten days, began clearing the roads of the remnants of houses and unblocking drains of earth and branches. Many slopes had suffered landslides overnight and made routes impassable.

The team have been working non-stop, but it's worth it. This morning the roads were in a bad state, cutting off large areas of the island

Marine Chris Lee, Alpha Company 40 Commando Royal Marines

"The team have been working non-stop, but it's worth it. This morning the roads were in a bad state, cutting off large areas of the island. At least they are clear enough to use now," said Marine Chris Lee.

The men also handed out more of the DFID shelter packs, providing short-term roofing for people before the main rebuilding process starts.

Sergeant Ralph Gorringe and Corporal Andy Campbell, from 40 Commando's intelligence cell, followed the Assault Engineers, making note of the additional damage Maria had caused and chatting to islanders to assess their needs.

"The majority of people had at least three days' food and enough water too. This helps us understand where to help distribute aid next," said Sgt Gorringe.

While assessing the North Coast Road, the Royal Marines met Cilio Donovan, a resident from badly-hit Great Carrot Bay. He explained how helpful the military support had been and the importance of the shelter packs from DFID.

"Having the marines here has kept things calm, especially at the supermarket. That was bad before they came," he said.

He encapsulated the spirit of most islanders, adding: "But I can't complain, man, everybody here is alive!"

The eye of Hurricane Maria passed to the south of the British Virgin Islands, hitting their American neighbours instead. St Croix and then Puerto Rico were hit by the full force of the hurricane with gusts exceeding 150mph.

It is predicted to pass the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday morning, where Royal Marines and Army Commandos have been making final preparations to ready buildings for the lashing they are likely to receive from winds of more than 60mph.

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