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  1. ITV Report

West Country responds to Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Parts of the British Virgin Islands have been devastated by the hurricanes. Photo: Adrian Bashija

Efforts are taking place across the West Country to heal the wounds inflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

A number of individuals and companies from the region are fundraising and coordinating humanitarian support for the British Virgin Islands.

Plymouth-based warship HMS Ocean is due to arrive in the Caribbean to deliver much-needed aid.

HMS Ocean is arriving with aid from the UK and Gibraltar. Credit: Royal Navy

Simon Roberts from Salcombe had been living in the British Virgin Islands for 15 years before the hurricane season arrived.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed his family home.

Mr Roberts took his children back to his mother's home in Salcombe.

A carpenter by profession, he has teamed up with fellow BVI resident Leo Whiting.

They have started a project that hopes to find other UK tradesmen to bring back to help with the rebuilding effort.

Mr Roberts recorded a video message showing the devastation at his BVI home. Credit: Simon Roberts

In Helston, Cornish charity Shelterbox have been at work for weeks.

Shelterbox says the second disaster has complicated an already extensive operation.

We were getting our teams and our aid into position to respond to the first hurricane, when we got the warning and the notice that Hurricane Maria was going to come through, and that meant we had to make sure our teams were safe because they were right in the path of this thing.

– James Luxton, Special Deployments Lead, Shelterbox

The charity says it is not just the initial storms that they need to be aware of when distributing aid.

With the aid we've had to move it to higher ground, get it away from those storm surges which are the most dangerous element of a hurricane often, and into more substantial warehousing so it doesn't become part of the debris thats flying around the storm and part of the damage.

– James Luxton, Special Deployments Lead, Shelterbox
Shelterbox is providing crates full of essentials to be sent to BVI. Credit: ITV West Country

Other less tangible effects of a natural disaster are the inevitable loss of law and order.

With many police officers unable to get to work, Maria left British citizens in need of protection.

Police in Somerset have answered that call.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh is leading the international policing effort, sending over a team including four South West officers to support the Islands' force.

As soon as a hurricane struck, and I heard there were British citizens from the UK and those based locally, in some distress, some issues around crime, law and order, safety, I made an offer to the Home Office saying how can we possibly help.

– Andy Marsh

The Chief Constable says there are sixty officers deployed in total and he is pleased British police forces are able to help.

I'm really proud of what they're doing, because it's really tough over there. There's no hot water, they've got limited fresh water, the ration packs are cold, but actually they're making a difference, and doing some valuable work so they're happy.

– Andy Marsh
Chief Constable Andy Marsh says sixty officers have been deployed. Credit: ITV News

With the islands' tourism industry battered, the main source of income has been cut.

Jim Scott is coordinating a large volunteer group from his home in Somerset.

Mr Scott lived and worked in Tortola for 19 years.

He says longer term a lot of help is needed to help rebuild the BVI economy.

A lot of people have lost their jobs, they've lost their businesses, they've lost their livelihoods. All of that has to be rebuilt, as well as the individuals' lives that are out there. Long term, we want to bring the BVI back and make it as beautiful, and as welcome, and as wonderful as it always has been.

– Jim Scott
The islands' industries have been massively affected by the disasters. Credit: ITV News