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Royal Navy Helicopters Continue Hurricane Relief Operations In Honduras

Hurricane Iota has devastated the Central American country, two weeks after Hurricane Eta hit.

Royal Navy helicopters have flown vital reconnaissance missions over Honduras, as part of continued relief operations following Hurricane Eta and Iota.

The two storms, just a fortnight apart, have seen severe flooding and landslides in the Central American country.

Storm Eta hit neighbouring Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane two weeks ago and was downgraded to a weakened tropical depression as it approached Honduras.

Hurricane Iota has since hit the Honduras-Nicaragua border, leaving millions of people displaced, without food and clean water.

RFA Argus, deployed to the Caribbean region to support British Overseas Territories during the hurricane season, was sent to the nation’s north east coast last week to support the US military in disaster relief.

The vessel is helping US Army Chinooks drop aid supplies ashore, while the embarked air group of three Merlin helicopters and a Wildcat have been flying information-gathering sorties over Honduras.

Pilots and aircrew from 845 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons are conducting the navy flights, giving US Southern Command and Joint Task Force Bravo a clearer picture on which areas need aid the most.

Commander Kate Muir, in command of the UK Task Group in the Caribbean, said the information is “critical” to rapid response on behalf of the local population.

Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron have supported international relief efforts in Honduras (Picture: Royal Navy).

Commanding Officer of RFA Argus, Captain Kevin Rimell, said: “We’ve been asked to provide a refuelling facility for the US heavy-lift helicopters.

“The CH47 Chinooks have a huge lift capacity and a long endurance, but they need lots of fuel from us which lets them move around the region and move the much-needed supplies to those areas that are in desperate need.

“We are able to provide them this support as they don’t have those facilities in the region themselves.”

Powerful sensors form part of the reconnaissance kit aboard the Merlins and Wildcat aircraft, while Crisis Response Troop from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines have provided support using a tool called a Disaster Relief Operation Position Logger, or ‘DROP Logger’.

The software enables 24 Commando Royal Engineers to swiftly map the ground below from an aircraft, using a tablet to spot priority areas and feeding the information back to command.

The UK is also providing a recovery package, which includes shelter, cooking and sanitation kits, alongside £1m to the Red Cross emergency appeal.

Meanwhile, Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Medway is a constant presence in Caribbean waters and remains in the region as RFA Argus carries out tasks in Honduras.

Cover image: Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron over Honduras (Picture: Royal Navy).