Hurricane Irma: Queen sends message of support to Caribbean as Navy rush to aid of those caught up in deadly storm

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The Queen has sent a heartfelt message to thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Irma as Britain rushed aid to the Caribbean.

At least 10 people have been killed in the wake of the raging storm, which wreaked havoc as it hit the islands on Wednesday morning.

Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay, with 40 marines on board, was sent to one of the worst-hit areas after ministers said the region needs “extensive humanitarian assistance”. 

The Government’s emergency Cobra committee is meeting to co-ordinate the response.

In a statement released by Buckingham Palace, the Queen said: “Prince Philip and I have been shocked and saddened by the reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed or adversely affected by this terrible storm.”

“Please convey my gratitude and good wishes to members of the emergency services and to those working on the rescue effort at this very difficult time for you all.”

Devastation: A hotel destroyed by Irma (AFP/Getty Images)

The island of Barbuda is said to be “barely habitable”. Officials say the French and Dutch island territories of St Martin/Sint Maarten have been devastated and the death toll is likely to rise. There has been no word from many islanders and tourists since the storm cut communications yesterday. 

The area hit by the storm includes a number of British overseas territories, among them the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.

Thousands of British nationals and tourists are also believed to be on Anguilla, which was described as having suffered “critical” damage.

Asked if the Government was expecting British fatalities, Theresa May’s spokesman refused to speculate. He said: “We are working urgently to assess the damage.”

Devastation: the scene on the island of Sint Maarten (AFP/Getty Images)

RFA Mounts Bay was sent to Anguilla to assess the situation. Today the Foreign Office was making £12 million available for the recovery effort.

There were fears for pregnant Briton Afiya Frank, 27, and sister Asha Frank, 29, who were in Barbuda but have not been heard from since Tuesday.

Their aunt, Ruth Bolton, told the BBC: “They were going to turn the electricity off on the island as a safety measure and they had boarded up their homes.”

The storm batters Sint Maarten (REUTERS)

There were also fears for London tourist Alex Woolfall, who was on St Martin. Yesterday he tweeted from his hotel: “May be my last tweet as power out and noise now apocalyptic.”

The storm, which has reached wind speeds of 180mph, was due to reach the British overseas territory of Turks and Caicos today. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas will also be hit. 

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said there have been no individual requests for consular assistance.

The National Hurricane Centre’s guidance on when Irma will hit the Caribbean islands (National Hurricane Center )

But he added: “We all have concern that beneath the rubble … there will be cases that require our urgent personal response.”

He said extensive humanitarian assistance is now needed for the British territories and that the UK is working with France and Holland. 

Hurricane Irma Predicted Pathway

Responding to complaints in Anguilla that the UK Government had not done more in advance to help the island, Mrs May’s spokesperson said: “You can see from our response we are working as quickly as we possibly can to get help and support and assess the scale of the damage. The Prime Minister’s thoughts are obviously with everyone there and trying to deal with this.”

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