Prime Minister Theresa May has upped Britain’s Hurricane Irma aid package to £32million.
The category five storm is continuing to tear a deadly trail through the Caribbean. It has already left thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees.
Mrs May’s response came after the UK Government was slammed over its ‘pathetic’ response.
Britain has sent hundreds of troops and the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to its overseas islands battered by Hurricane Irma.
Debris is strewn across the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten today after being hit by the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in history
Mrs May’s aid increase came after the UK Government was slammed over its ‘pathetic’ response to Hurricane Irma damage
The Queen, pictured earlier this week, said she and Prince Philip were ‘shocked and saddened’ by the devastation caused by the hurricane
The UK has already sent one ship, RFA Mount Bay, to Anguilla, which took the full force of the storm.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Thursday he had ordered HMS Ocean to head to the Caribbean from the Mediterranean.
Fallon also said the UK was sending ‘a task group of several hundred troops, marines, engineers and additional helicopters.’
British authorities are being criticized for being slow to send aid to territories in the storm’s path, but Fallon said ‘we are going to make sure the islands get the help they need.’
Mrs May, meanwhile, said her ‘thoughts and prayers’ were with all those affected.
At least 10 people have died, including one in Anguilla, a British overseas territory that was among the first islands to be hit.
Queen Elizabeth voiced her shock and sadness over the devastating storm on Thursday.
Britain has sent hundreds of troops and the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to its overseas islands battered by Hurricane Irma
The UK has already sent one ship, RFA Mount Bay, to Anguilla, which took the full force of the storm
The Queen said: ‘Prince Philip and I have been shocked and saddened by the reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed or adversely affected by this terrible storm.
‘Please convey my gratitude and good wishes to members of the emergency services and to those who are working on the rescue effort at this very difficult time for you all.’
Elizabeth is the constitutional monarch of Antigua and Barbuda – a ceremonial role.
The Foreign Office today insisted Britain was doing its ‘utmost’ to bring urgent assistance after the category five storm caused devastation in the Caribbean.
A meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee to coordinate the response is being chaired today by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon after Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about it with French President Emmanuel Macron.
But the money towards the relief effort came after Dorothea Hodge, the former UK representative to Anguilla, criticised Britain’s response as ‘absolutely disgraceful’.
Hurricane Irma slams into Sint Maarten as Caribbean islands were hit by the weather system
She said the UK should follow France in committing to an emergency fund and a reconstruction plan after the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in history.
Ms Hodge told the Guardian: ‘It’s absolutely disgraceful that it has taken the whole day for Priti Patel to respond to the worst hurricane we have seen in a British territory since the 1920s.
Dorothea Hodge, the former UK representative to Anguilla, criticised Britain’s response as ‘absolutely disgraceful’
‘In comparison to the French president who has set up an emergency fund, an emergency hotline and a reconstruction fund her response after the storm has passed is absolutely pathetic.’
Yesterday, international development secretary Ms Patel said three UK humanitarian experts and a British naval ship would be sent to the region.
But Josephine Gumbs-Connor, who is a lawyer on British-owned Anguilla, told BBC Radio 4 today that the response from the UK has been ‘sorely lacking’.
She said Anguilla was ‘utterly devastated’ and has been left ‘in absolute pieces’, adding: ‘Hurricane Irma, was off the charts in terms of strength.
‘It has certainly cut a swathe through Anguilla that has left us in absolute pieces. Our police service has suffered roof damage, so has our court house, so has our prisons, so has the hospital.
‘Just in terms of essential services alone we are clearly in limping position. When you look at our island at the moment you would think that it just suffered nuclear bomb devastation.’
The shocking aftermath of the Category 5 hurricane on Sint Maarten in the Caribbean today
Discussing the British response, she said: ‘While we understand that these things take time, I personally am very disappointed. We are supposed to be the same status as Gibraltar or the Falkland Island.
‘I’m am truly disappointed. If we are indeed supposed to be in a partnership then it should work far more effectively than it is doing now.’
Josephine Gumbs-Connor, who is a lawyer on British-owned Anguilla, said the response from the UK has been ‘sorely lacking’
Today, delivering an urgent statement on the disaster, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan told MPs that £12 million had been made immediately through its ‘rapid response mechanism for disaster relief and recovery’.
Sir Alan said the Government’s focus was on ‘everybody’, not just tourists in the Caribbean.
‘We really have complete overall concern particularly for our overseas territories which are affected and to that end we have £12 million immediately available through our rapid response mechanism for disaster relief and recovery.’
He said the Department for International Development (Dfid) and the Foreign Office were on ‘full alert’ and doing their ‘utmost’ with a ‘great wealth of expertise to deploy on this’.
‘We are pulling out all the stops to make sure that we can do our utmost to bring urgent assistance, once we, with the professionalism Dfid has, does the assessment to make sure we know who are in greatest need and then we can use our adeptness and flexibility urgently to address those who most need our help.’
Asked if the Government was expecting any British fatalities, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘We are working urgently to assess the damage and precisely what has happened. But you wouldn’t expect me to speculate on whether or not there are British fatalities.’
A man surveys the wreckage on his property after the passing of Irma in St. John’s, Antigua
Downing Street said that the Royal Navy’s RFA Mounts Bay is also in the region.
Mrs May and Mr Macron today agreed both countries would work together to help deal with the devastation caused by the hurricane, and Mrs May told the president that advisers from the Department for International Development (DfID) have been sent to impacted areas.
Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan talks about Irma in the House of Commons today
The PM’s spokesman told a Westminster briefing: ‘The Prime Minister called the French President Emmanuel Macron this morning to discuss our response to Hurricane Irma.
‘They agreed the devastation it had wreaked was terrible, with unconfirmed reports emerging of a number of fatalities.
‘The Prime Minister updated the French President on our response, noting that DFID humanitarian advisers had already deployed to the region to conduct damage assessments and provide humanitarian support, and RFA Mounts Bay was also in the area.
‘They agreed to cooperate closely, including with the Dutch, to understand the extent of the damage and to coordinate our relief efforts.
‘They also discussed North Korea, agreeing on the importance of China using its leverage and taking further action to put more pressure on the North Korean regime to change its dangerous course.
Sir Alan said the Government’s focus was on ‘everybody’, not just tourists in the Caribbean
‘They agreed we should work together at the United Nations to agree a new package of sanctions measures.
International development secretary Priti Patel said three UK humanitarian experts and a British navy ship would be sent to the region
‘They also agreed to explore additional measures the EU could take to pressure the North Korean regime.
‘Finally on Brexit, the Prime Minister noted that some good progress had been made in the negotiations and that the UK and EU negotiating teams would continue to work together intensively over the coming weeks.’
Yesterday, Ms Patel said Britain has taken ‘swift action’ to respond to the crisis.
She added: ‘We have deployed three UK aid humanitarian experts to the region to help coordinate the response, and positioned a British naval ship with 40 Royal Marines, Army Engineers, and vehicles, tents and facilities to purify water on board.
‘Our staff are on standby, both in the UK and at post, to support any British people affected. We urge British Nationals in the affected area to closely monitor and follow Foreign Office and local travel advice.’