UK’s Hurricane Irma response was not late – Fallon

UK troops distributing aidImage copyright

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has insisted the UK was “not late” in its response to help British overseas territories hit by Hurricane Irma.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he said the government’s response had been “as good as anybody else’s”.

Two senior MPs and residents of the Caribbean islands have criticised the response after the storm struck.

Some 500 UK troops have been sent to Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, and British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Asked about reports of looting in the region, Sir Michael said there had been a “security issue” in the BVI.

He added the UK was sending in armed troops backed up by additional police from Britain to help local authorities “ensure law and order is maintained”.

Currently there are 120 UK troops in the BVI, where five people have died, Sir Michael told the programme.

He dismissed comments from Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat and Tory peer Lord Naseby who have said the response was “too slow” and slower than France and Holland.

‘Invisible response’

Sir Michael said: “We weren’t late. We prepositioned a ship in the Caribbean for the hurricane season, it wasn’t by chance that Mounts Bay, a huge 16,000-tonne aid ship, with marines with a helicopter with pallets of aid was already in the Caribbean.”

Charlotte Grayson whose father and siblings live on Tortola, in the BVI, said the government response was “almost invisible”.

“Looting has been rife and he has struggled to obtain more basic supplies for my family.

“My dad hasn’t seen a police officer since Irma hit, he complained that nobody was driving around to give residents any information and their only source had been USVI [US Virgin Islands] radio,” she told the BBC.

What has happened in British territories?

  • Anguilla: Hit by the full blast of the hurricane on Wednesday. At least one death reported.
  • British Virgin Islands: At least five people have died. Expected to require extensive humanitarian assistance.
  • Montserrat: “Swiped” by Irma but suffered less serious damage.
  • Turks and Caicos: Battered by the hurricane on Thursday night, with roofs ripped off, streets flooded, utility poles snapped and a widespread black-out on the main island of Grand Turk.

The French have military garrisons in their Caribbean overseas territories so already have troops in position, the defence secretary added.

“Our response has been as good as anybody else’s and indeed I can tell you the French have asked now for our assistance in helping to lift troops and material to some of their islands.”

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