THE second-in-command of the Joint Task Force overseeing Britain’s response to Hurricane Irma has been identified as a man from Tunbridge Wells.
Brigadier John Ridge, of the Eighth Engineer Brigade, praised the ‘extraordinary’ efforts of his men in helping islanders in the wake of the recordbreaking storm, but warned further devastation can be expected.
A number of British overseas territories in the Caribbean suffered significant damage during Irma, including The Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.
Brigadier Ridge has been co-ordinating the activities of more than 1,100 military ersonnel in the region, with his task force primarily consisting of Royal Marines and Royal Engineers.
Speaking during Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s visit to the region last week, he said: “The way they have just got stuck in has been extraordinary, and to go and see the Royal
Marines and Royal Engineers out in some pretty unpleasant conditions – just digging out,
cleaning stuff up, helping distribute aid and enjoying doing it. That for me gives me tremendous pride. For them it has been a hugely rewarding experience.”
The brigadier went on to praise the ‘staggering resilience’ of the local residents, many of whom lost their homes and livelihoods when the hurricane struck.
But on Monday [September 18] he warned of the approaching Hurricane Maria, stating the islands will struggle to cope as the drainage systems are blocked with storm debris.
However, he said placing extra troops potentially in harm’s way on the British Virgin Islands was a ‘risk worth taking’, adding: “Once the hurricane is through we can leap back into action. We have got the guys positioned in the right place so they are ready to react.”