EXCLUSIVE: On Board RFA Mounts Bay As Hurricane Maria Wreaks Havoc

Forces News joins RFA Mounts Bay's during the latest hurricane preparations 

UK troops and residents in the Caribbean are bracing themselves for the "potentially catastrophic" Hurricane Maria as it sweeps towards British overseas territories already battered by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

Royal Navy support vessel RFA Mounts Bay, has been in a position of safety 150 miles out at sea with a Forces News crew onboard, while preparing to provide aid to the islands after the storm passes. 

The US National Hurricane Centre said the storm had regained strength, with sustained winds of up to 175 mph, as it bears down on the British Virgin Islands.

One fatality has been reported in the French island of Guadelope, and two people are still missing after their boat sank.

UK personnel deployed to the Caribbean are also preparing for a new storm currently strengthening in the West Atlantic.

Over 1,300 UK troops are staying in the region and a military reconnaissance team has been put on standby to go to Montserrat to assess need if it is hit by Hurricane Maria.

International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has described the situation as an "unprecedented crisis" and stressed the UK government is "working flat out".

Alex Deakin from the Met Office explains the science of hurricanes

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all travel to the British Virgin Islands as Maria is expected to make landfall by Wednesday, with severe damage and coastal flooding expected. Hurricane alerts are also in place for Montserrat, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Brigadier John Ridge, the second-in-command of the Joint Task Force, said officials are "continuing to track Maria" as it rolls through the Caribbean .

"Whilst the winds will be strong, it doesn't look like the BVI will suffer quite the same level of wind as they did under Irma," he said. "The real concern is the amount of rain and the storm surge.

The UK's military helicopters and aircraft in the region have been kept in Barbados, where there is cover to protect them.

Brigadier Ridge said additional reserve troops will also be sent to the British Virgin Islands, but defended his decision to put troops potentially in harm's way, stating it is a "risk worth taking" because it ensures "extra capacity" to deal with any immediate problems in the aftermath.

"Once the hurricane is through we can leap back into action, we have got the guys positioned in the right place so they are ready to react"

Chris Austin from the Department for International Development and head of the UK Task Force, said they have had civilians and military "working around the clock" to provide emergency relief in the form of shelter, food and water.

"I've been hugely impressed by the resilience and fortitude of the people I have met so far and it's our obligation in the team to match their resilience and stamina"

Lewis Grand Turk
Forces News exclusively on the ground with RFA Mounts Bay on the island of Grand Turk
Mounts Bay Turks
Mexifloat from RFA Mounts Bay near Grand Turk

Earlier, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Maynard, commanding officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines said the experts and people are ready to deal with whatever damage or problems Maria may cause, and to get aid to wherever it is needed.

"The requirement for military forces to support in the delivery of aid, as first responders is still very much there"

40 Commando Royal Marines British Virgin Islands
40 Commando Royal Marines repair homes on British Virgin Islands

After the hurricane has passed, RFA Mounts Bay, will be "pushed back in again".

Another British vessel, HMS Ocean, which is carrying another 60 tonnes of aid is expected to arrive in the region by the weekend.

EXCLUSIVE: On Board RFA Mounts Bay As Hurricane Maria Wreaks Havoc
RFA Mounts Bay loads kit in preparation for Hurricane Maria

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