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RFA Mounts Bay crew help out islanders on still-devastated Anguilla

25 January 2018
Sailors and soldiers returned to a hurricane-hit island to continue the clear-up operation they began four months ago.

The crew of Royal Navy support ship RFA Mounts Bay provided the first outside help to the people of Anguilla back in September, hours after Hurricane Irma smashed its way through the Caribbean island.

Just days after helping out on the British Virgin Islands - also badly affected by the autumn storms - the ship paid a return visit to nearby Anguilla, and found it too was still suffering from Nature's wrath.

Among the buildings still wrecked is Brenda's Care Home, which provided respite and care for up to 14 elderly or disabled Anguillans before the storms.

So damaged is the home that residents have spent the past four months living in Brenda's mother's house, while the original care facility is earmarked for demolition…. once builders can get to it.

So a team of RFA and Royal Navy sailors, medics, Royal Engineers and troops from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, who run Mount's Bay's powered floats set to work, clearing the grounds and some of the rooms of debris and storm detritus, paving the way for builders to move on to the site, knock down what is left of the residential home and put up a new facility on the same site.

"We managed to empty all the rooms of rubble, mud and debris and salvaged what was still usable - such as Zimmer frames and bookshelves," said Leading Medical Assistant Amy Howells.

There is still a long way to go, but to see the gratitude of the people we helped was the most rewarding feeling ever and hopefully they will have the residents back in that little bit quicker due to our efforts.

Leading Medical Assistant Amy Howells

The leading hand is on her first deployment and was struck both by the scale of devastation and the number of people still requiring urgent assistance so long after the storms battered the island.

"Destruction is visible everywhere - you can see smashed cars and broken buildings but to actually go and meet the people involved and hear their stories gave us more of an emotional account and reason to give our all with helping those that needed us most.

"There is still a long way to go, but to see the gratitude of the people we helped was the most rewarding feeling ever and hopefully they will have the residents back in that little bit quicker due to our efforts."

Few were more appreciative than the care home's eponymous administrator, Nurse Brenda Hodge.

"We are extremely grateful to the crew of Mounts Bay - their sheer hard work over the two days has ensured that when re-construction begins in a few months' time, the debris removal they have achieved will have created a suitable access for the builders," she said.

"Once construction is completed and the residents move back in, I intend to ensure that the RFA Ensign will be hung inside the recreation room alongside photographs of the work carried out by the volunteers."

Clearing rubble from Brenda' Care Home wasn't the only mission performed by the Mounts Bay team during their visit to the British Overseas Territory.

Governor Tim Foy asked the ship to provide search-and-rescue training for local fishermen and volunteers who provide the service at present.

Surg Lt Chris Hooper, Mounts Bay's doctor, gave first aid and basic medical instruction, while RFA Cadet Michael Williams offered general advice on lifesaving and plucking people from the water.

"While I hope they never need to use these skills, it's great that we were able to help them prepare for their emergency role," said Chris.

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