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UK promises quicker response to hurricanes

Deputy Premier Walter Roban (File photograph)

Hurricanes will be met with a more rapid response from the British Government, Bermuda’s Deputy Premier was told yesterday.

Walter Roban was given the commitment during a meeting of the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council in London.

He said the pledge came after complaints about the speed of the reaction by UK leaders after 2017 hurricanes devastated parts of the Caribbean.

Mr Roban said: “There was significant criticism of the British Government’s response with Irma and Maria last year.

“It has been directed by both the Prime Minister and the minister that this will get a much more proactive support on their part and they will be much more rapidly responding to any disasters that might occur in this upcoming hurricane season.

“They have started to raise the level of attention to these matters to that of the Prime Minister as well as the minister responsible.”

Mr Roban went on to say that Bermuda’s level of assistance to those affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes would match that of 2017.

He explained: “We committed to certainly the same support that we gave last year around the areas of security and recovery that we gave to the territories.”

Mr Roban said these included the deployment of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, police and private partners.

John Rankin, the Governor, thanked the regiment and police last December for their work to aid people in hurricane-hit UK Caribbean territories.

Mr Rankin held a reception for the 30 troops sent to Turks and Caicos and the six police officers stationed in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma’s 185mph winds brought “severe devastation” to the territories last September.

David Burt, the Premier, was among those who asked the British Government to “fulfil its obligations” to the people of Britain’s Caribbean territories after the catastrophic storm.

Mr Burt, president of the UK Overseas Territories Association, said he welcomed a British commitment to provide immediate resources in the event of a disaster.

But the association questioned Britain’s response in other areas, including a regional reconstruction fund and the two-week wait for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean in the Caribbean in the wake of Irma.

Mr Burt said: “Now, more than ever, we need the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligations by providing comprehensive and lasting support to ensure a sustainable future.”

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, a few days earlier had increased the country’s aid package for the Caribbean region to $42.5 million.

The UK Government did not respond to request for comment by press time.