UK Flagship rescues hurricane-hit Britons from Dominica

Carried in the arms of Royal Navy nurse Lieutenant Hannah Klepacz, young Columbus Vidal is landed safely on board Britain's flagship - one of 39 vulnerable people evacuated from Dominica by HMS Ocean.

After helping the people of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, the helicopter carrier has concentrated its efforts helping British citizens - and other islanders - over 200 miles away in Dominica, badly affected by the succession of hurricanes which have hit the region over the past three weeks.

With commercial transport links out of Dominica overburdened, the 39 Britons who lacked some of the most basic amenities, were unable to leave the island to a place of safety - so the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asked Ocean to help them.

"The group included whole families including the very young and the very old," explained Captain Robert Pedre, Ocean's Commanding Officer.

"It has been truly humbling to see individuals who have lost so much greet you with a smile on their face - these are very resilient people.

"While onboard they benefited from air-conditioned accommodation, clean water, food and medical support on hand."

It has been truly humbling to see individuals who have lost so much greet you with a smile on their face - these are very resilient people.

Captain Robert Pedre

He continued: "My ship's company has worked tirelessly to bring aid to the Caribbean region over the last week and welcoming some of the most vulnerable members of Dominican society onboard has been no exception."

After a night aboard Ocean, the group are due to be transferred first to the airport in Dominica, then by an RAF flight to Barbados.

The evacuation operation - something every warship practises in the UK before deploying - was just one strand of Ocean's efforts to help the people of the Commonwealth country.

The Plymouth-based warship's helicopters flew 25 sorties and made good use of her landing craft to deliver more than 20 tonnes of stores to ten isolated villages which had yet to receive any aid one week after Hurricane Maria tore through the island; six tonnes of water; 700 shelter kits; seven tonnes of high-energy biscuits; health, first aid and paediatric kits and 3,000 buckets.

Engineering teams went ashore to restore electrical supplies, clear out drainage systems, repair reservoirs, ensuring Dominicans had access to clean drinking water, and carry out structural repairs to a hospital.

Tanks from RFA Mounts Bay - also supporting the humanitarian aid effort in the region - were slung beneath helicopters to transport fresh water made onboard Ocean to those most in need.

"Ocean's significant airlift capacity has proved invaluable on this mountainous island," said Capt Pedre.

"Merlin and Wildcat helicopters alongside RAF Chinooks have been used to ferry significant quantities of food and water from Dominica's main port, where it arrived yesterday from Barbados."

Today the aid effort has continued with Ocean sailing just one-and-a-half miles off the eastern coast of Dominica - the worst-hit part of the mountainous island - sending more than 100 sailors and Royal Marines ashore to help.

"HMS Ocean continues to work closely with the local authorities, and international aid organisations under the guidance of the Department for International Development to deliver much needed support to Dominica." said Capt Pedre.