RBR Troops Weather the Storm

Island troops on an aid mission to storm-ravaged Turks & Caicos yesterday hit the ground running after a second hit by Hurricane Maria. The Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers, deployed to the Caribbean country’s Grand Turk island after Hurricane Irma earlier this month caused devastation, this morning (FRI) cleared roads to key emergency service centres and delivered supplies after Category 3 Maria hit in the early hours of the morning.

 Major Corey Smalley, commander of the platoon-strength RBR team, said immediate response teams were stationed at three emergency shelters for civilians as the storm, which brought heavy rain as well as winds of up to 130mph, approached.

He added: “They rode out the storm and were there on hand first thing to help the Red Cross with food distribution and the like.

“Then they pushed out from their locations to carry out damage assessments and cleared the roads from their bases to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) where I am stationed.”

Major Smalley said: “It was my first hurricane, so I couldn’t compare it, but it was pretty fierce, it has to be said.”

He added the EOC, based in the House of Assembly and Premier’s office in Grand Turk, was one of the most modern buildings on the island and built to withstand storms.

But he said: “The wind direction changed from out towards the sea to coming off the sea. From about 3.30am, all the doors on the wind side blew off their hinges – we had a bit of a crisis trying to stop the flooding.”

Major Smalley added: “In terms of impact, Irma did the worst damage and Maria was not so bad.

“There has been localised flooding and some damage in terms of roofs, power supply and utility poles.

“But considering what hit us last night, we fared pretty well.”

Major Smalley said the troops would now get back to repairing key sites wrecked by Irma, like schools and other government buildings.

RBR Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel David Curley added: “Others services on the ground have been impressed by the RBR’s professionalism, absolute competence and experience in dealing with major events of this kind.

“We have huge experience of dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes - and that shines through in everything we’ve done in Turks & Caicos.”

Bermuda soldiers had worked on the EL Simons Primary School on Grand Turk before Maria struck and repairs carried out so far have stood up well to Maria.

Major Smalley said: “I would imagine that it won’t be long before children can get back to EL Simons

“Children haven’t been able to go to school for two weeks – we want to get the school and other buildings back up and running as soon as possible.”