As the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season gets into full swing, the United Kingdom is once again prepared to lend a helping hand to hurricane-ravaged islands in the Caribbean in the event of major devastation due to natural disasters this year.
This was the assurance given by Minister of State for the Armed Forces in Britain The Right Honourable Mark Lancaster who was speaking at a media conference yesterday afternoon at the British High Commission headquarters at Lower Collymore Rock, St Michael.
Lancaster, who was in Barbados for an official one-day visit before heading to Antigua and Montserrat on Thursday, said Britain will definitely come to the rescue if countries are destroyed by tropical storms or hurricanes.
“We are particularly keen to be supportive both regionally and here in Barbados. Much has been done throughout the last year and of course we hope that this hurricane season will not be as difficult as the last. I am confident that both regionally and from an individual national perspective, we’re in a stronger position than we were last year.
“We will be practicing how we can help. We are delighted to be here as the British military and as part of the potential international response… more like an insurance policy to reassure countries in the region we are here to react very quickly if our support is required. I want to reassure everyone that the United Kingdom is here to do our bit in support of the region,” he told reporters.
The total cost of deploying some 120 personnel for last year’s rescue and rebuild missions in Dominica after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria last September was in the region of 142 million pounds, which, according to Minister Lancaster, demonstrates England’s commitment to the region.
However, he is also calling on Caribbean islands to have solid preparation in place to lessen the impact of weather systems.
“I think much of what we discussed is [that] if something goes wrong, the military, as a last resort, will come and support. But all too often we lose [sight of] the fact that so much time can be mitigated by being proactive and [implementing] a whole series of measures which individual states can take in preparing for that worst-case scenario. If we do the work upfront, we can minimize the impact of these events.”
UK’s Chief Joint Force Operations Brigadier John Ridge disclosed that the British class auxiliary landing ship Mounts Bay is already in the region to help in disaster relief efforts.
“Onboard she has emergency food, water, shelter, and engineers so that would always be our immediate response in the region. My team has spent the last two months visiting the overseas territories to link in with the governments to understand what type of support they might require.
“The more we can understand about the state of the airports, roads, and ports, the better we are able to support if required,” he said.
He added, “As we start to see these storms systems develop, we will pull Mounts Bay out of harm’s way and she will be able to respond immediately like last year and deliver that initial aid. We want to tailor our response as carefully as we can so we only provide those capabilities that the military need to provide.”
Ridge also explained the importance of technology and communication in time of disasters.
“3G networks and Wi-Fi are important – everyone is so reliant on getting their information about what is going on through their phones. If you want to have your 3G network running that means you have to have your power running. There are whole bits of infrastructure which our planning will focus on to make sure we understand how important that is.”