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Johnson: British aid presence 'ratcheting up' after Irma

Foreign Secretary announces more British troops are being deployed to the Caribbean.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Cole Bay community of St. Martin.
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Cole Bay community of St. Martin. AP Photo/Joel Antonio Colon

The Foreign Secretary has announced more British troops are being deployed to the Caribbean to help communities devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Boris Johnson who is now visiting British territories ravaged by Hurricane Irma said his visit is a "very important statement" by the Government to show it is "here for UK nationals" and is a "sign of our absolute commitment to them".

Mr Johnson said: "The military presence is really ratcheting up now."There were about 700 troops in the region that has now gone up to 1,000. It will go up to 1,250 in the course of the next few days."

The Foreign Secretary's visit comes as officials raised the death toll to 12 in Florida, up from seven which brings the total number of people killed by Irma to 55.

Hundreds of UK troops and 50 police officers have already been sent to the British Virgin Islands after they were battered by the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.

Royal Marines deliver aid and provide support to the islanders of Jost Van Dkye, British Virgin Islands.
Royal Marines deliver aid and provide support to the islanders of Jost Van Dkye, British Virgin Islands. MOD via AP

During his visit to Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, Mr Johnson will meet governors and other officials leading the recovery work.

The Government had faced claims that the UK had done less to evacuate its citizens than other nations and did not have the correct equipment in place to deal with the catastrophe in the Caribbean.

Mr Johnson said the hurricane has been "an unprecedented event, an unprecedented catastrophe" for the people who live in the part of the Caribbean which has been worst hit.

"What they're seeing is an unprecedented UK response, but I want to stress it is not just for the short term, we are going to be there for the long term as well," he added.

The Royal Navy's fleet flagship has set now sail for the Caribbean loaded with long term emergency supplies for British territories devastated by the storm.

Army Commandos deliver aid and provide support to British Virgin Islands communities on the island of Tortola.
Army Commandos deliver aid and provide support to British Virgin Islands communities on the island of Tortola. MOD via AP

HMS Ocean left Gibraltar on Tuesday night stacked with more than "200 pallets of aid" including timber, buckets, bottled water, food, baby milk, bedding and clothing.

The ship is also taking pickup trucks donated by the Gibraltar government, the Royal Navy said.

Leading Steward Kevin Slater, who comes from the Caribbean, said: "I'm proud to be going out there to help people out. I've heard from friends that it's been devastating - a lot of people are homeless, the infrastructure's gone, there's no water.

"Caribbean people tend to be quite resilient. This isn't the first storm or hurricane ... but it is the first one on this level."I'm sure people will recover from this, but it is going to take some time."

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