Commanding Officer of British Royal Navy support vessel the RFS Mounts Bay, Captain Stephen Norris, has described devastation to Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria last month as “unprecedented.”
Norris made the remarks during a press conference after a brief tour of the vessel and said that despite support and aid from the crew and various international agencies, organisations faced numerous challenges in logistics, communication and the availability of supplies during relief operations on the island.
“The level of devastation that we say was unprecedented and our thoughts go out to all those islands affected by these two category five hurricanes, which wreaked devastation for many people, some people have lost everything. We supported as best as we could by providing water, shelter, food as an initial response,” he said.
The Mounts Bay was part of an ongoing commitment of the British government to provide one of it’s support vessels to assist it’s overseas territories in the region and was one of the first relief vessels to respond to Dominica after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Norris said that in addition to providing relief and humanitarian aid, the Mounts Bay will begin counter-narcotics initiatives by securing maritime boundaries between islands.
“We do a lot of security work in the region and counter-narcotics operations close to our territories, so we will remain fairly close to small island chains and are ready to respond to anything we may be called upon to do,” he added.
Despite these obstacles however, Norris said he was impressed by the response of local and regional authorities after the Hurricane and was generally pleased with the pace of ongoing clean up operations.
He suggested that in addition to stronger, more resilient infrastructure, Dominca should also make efforts to improve telecommunications and emphasised the importance of effective communications to relief operations.
“There are a number of aid agencies in Dominica and a number of other nations supporting Dominica so we have left them in a good state. Clearly there is much more work to be done and there is a lot of agencies to assist Dominica in getting back on its feet.”
The Mounts Bay, which contains a crew of over 200 and accomodates various military vehicles including lorries, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles (ATV), is expected to resume its three-year commitment to relief and national security support to regional territories after a brief resupply of hurricane relief items before returning to Dominica where it will remain for the duration of the hurricane season, which is expected to end in the next four weeks.