Assault Engineers clearing the road at Meyers, Tortola. Image: Crown Copyright 2017

With the tail end of Hurricane Maria still being felt, Royal Marines from 40 Commando were straight out across the Island to ensure critical routes were clear and they understood what the islanders needed.

With heavy rain and driving winds through the night it was crucial that both remote and main routes were clear of debris and unblocked if flooded. It was also vital to understand the effect this weather had had on the local people and what they were in greatest need of, allowing intelligent aid distribution. Therefore Assault Engineers were deployed as the muscle, and members of the unit’s intelligence section as the brains to transit the length of Tortola.

The assault engineers, who have been relentless in their work on this operation, began clearing the roads of the remnants of houses and unblocking drains of earth and branches. Many slopes had suffered landslides overnight and made routes impassable.

Marine Chris Lee said, “The team have been working non-stop, but it’s worth it. This morning the roads were in a bad state, cutting off large areas of the island. At least they are clear enough to transit now.”

The team also handed out more of the DFID shelter packs, allowing short term roofing for people while the rebuild process starts.

Sgt Ralph Gorringe Cpl Andy Campbell, part of the intelligence cell, followed the Assault Engineers, making a needs assessment on some of the more dislocated areas. Sgt Ralph explained what they’d noticed.

He said, “The majority of people had at least 3 days food and enough water too. This helps us understand where to help distribute aid next.”

While assessing the North Coast Road, the Royal Marines met Donovan Cilio, a resident from the badly hit Great Carrot Bay. He explained how helpful the military support had been and the importance of the shelter packs from DFID.

He said, “Having the Marines here has kept things calm, especially at the supermarket. That was bad before they came”.

Donovan summarised the encounter with the attitude that has become increasing apparent across the islands.

He continued, “But I can’t complain, man, everybody here is alive!”