Portsmouth Warship Helps Out After Hurricane

A Portsmouth-based Royal Navy destroyer is off the coast of the Caribbean island of St Lucia today helping communities devastated by Hurricane Tomas.

HMS Manchester arrived off Soufriere yesterday following a request for help from the island, and has already managed to reach the remote village of Morne Fond St Jacques by helicopter, providing essential electricity, water and food.

At least 14 people are believed to have been killed by the category 1 storm.

The 300 villagers in Soufriere had been without running water, electricity or sanitation systems since the hurricane hit on October 31 and a mudslide barred emergency access.

A rescue party of 20 sailors set up generators and connected lighting for those living in the temporary accommodation, while medics treated an elderly woman in her 80s whose home had collapsed.

Each villager was also fed a hot meal for the first time in nearly four days and power was connected to the local hospital where the generators had run out of fuel.

The Type 42 destroyer's teams are also helping the main town of Soufriere by supplying a shuttle service to allow 1,500 people access to clean drinking water.

Commander Rex Cox, the commanding officer of HMS Manchester, said:

"HMS Manchester arrived off the town Soufriere not knowing what to expect. Once the team had deployed it was immediately obvious that help was required to recover from the hurricane.

"HMS Manchester's ship's company will do everything in their power to save lives and ease the suffering of the villagers until the local authorities are in a position to take over.''

Portsmouth-based HMS Manchester is in the Caribbean region as part of her seven-month North Atlantic deployment.

Her main task is to provide support to the British Overseas Territories in the event of a natural disaster, but her priorities also include counter-narcotics operations.