Mounts Bay chips in on Tortola to clear debris from last year's storms

Nine months after a succession of hurricanes smashed through the British Virgin Islands, sailors, soldiers and marines once again helped with the clear-up.

The Caribbean chain bore the brunt of storms Irma and Maria last year, with widespread devastation, especially on the main island of Tortola where roads were blocked, power and water supplies disrupted, the airport put out of action, schools wrecked and the prison left insecure.

RFA Mounts Bay – and later HMS Ocean – and their teams of soldiers, Royal Marines, plus heavy kit and helicopters played a key role in helping to restore all those vital services, as well as delivering food and fresh water during a month-long aid mission, Operation Ruman.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2018 and Mounts Bay remains on station in the Caribbean, with a specialist Humanitarian And Disaster Relief (HADR) embarked, ready to respond should storms strike again.

With the storm season upon the region again, Mounts is on a tour of British territories discussing emergency plans with local authorities so she can intervene as quickly and effectively as possible.

It’s good to help restore some of the attractions that helps bring people to these islands, helping to clear the beach so tourists can return is vital to the local economy

Lieutenant George Wolstenholme Royal Logistic Corps

Having visited Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the ship made the short passage to the British Virgin Islands, where the effects of last year’s storms are still evident.

Indeed, the HADR troop of Royal Engineers, soldiers from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC and the ship’s Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, assisted locals by moving stores and assisting in a beach and mangrove clean-up – all part of the wider effort to attract tourists back.

“It’s good to help restore some of the attractions that helps bring people to these islands, helping to clear the beach so tourists can return is vital to the local economy,” said Lt George Wolstenholme RLC, who was overseeing part of the beach clean-up.

“Also having a uniform presence on the island reassures the local population that we are in the area ready to react if called upon in the coming months.”

Mounts Bay has been deployed to the Caribbean for 12 months – and will remain there until 2020 providing year-round support for British territories and joining in the international fight against drug running in the region when other commitments allow.