Hunkering down for Hurricane Maria

Serve On's disaster response experts were tonight safely sheltered against the second Category 5 Hurricane to hit the British Virgin Islands within a fortnight.

As high winds and heavy rains lashed the islands already laid waste by Hurricane Irma, it was hoped the eye of the latest storm would pass just south of the BVI, sparing them the most devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

Scene of devastation outside the team's stronghold before Hurricane Maria. 

Scene of devastation outside the team's stronghold before Hurricane Maria. 

In any case, our volunteers were well prepared for the worst and had made sure they were in safe accommodation, having taken all possible precautions to protect themselves, and the islanders they have been helping.

They know from years of experience in disaster zones, and from our extensive training, that their safety is paramount.

Hurricane Maria, which had unexpectedly strengthened in just a few hours from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Category 5, with 160mph winds, had this morning hit the island of Dominica with devastating effect, and was on course to hit Puerto Rico.

Our teams on the British Virgin islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, along with our colleagues from Team Rubicon UK, had used the time awaiting Maria's arrival to help the locals prepare for another catastrophic weather system, identifying the strongest shelters and, liaising with British Royal Marines as they helped to reinforce them.

Storm clouds brew over Virgin Gorda

Storm clouds brew over Virgin Gorda

Operations Director Dan Cooke and Operations Manager Craig Elsdon, leading Operation Zulu Warrior on Virgin Gorda, reported that morale was high and progress good, though the wind was strengthening and the sea state was 'fruity'.

They, along with International Response Team member Simon Thomasson, and Team Rubicon's Lizzy Stileman, were taking shelter in a house that had withstood Hurricane Irma with no damage at all.

They had previously left the bank building 'stronghold' in Spanish Town which had been the team's base, and they had carefully rehearsed all their emergency plans

On Tortola, Mark Gatfield and Roger Howells were similarly making sure they were safe having done all they could to help the locals prepare for Maria.

Earlier, telecoms expert Simon had worked with Virgin staff to identify a site for the location of repeater station which will make a huge difference to the communications for the whole of Virgin Gorda once the Hurricane danger has passed, and Craig Elsdon had set up in single email link for the islanders.

Dan Cooke and Craig Elsdon help locals organise their recovery.

Dan Cooke and Craig Elsdon help locals organise their recovery.

We are monitoring Maria's situation closely from the UK, and wish our teams the best, and we know that when Maria blows over they will be perfectly placed to respond to any islanders needing help.

Their skills in setting up advanced communications systems and communicating any immediate needs to government agencies or our collaborative partners in the BVI, Team Rubicon, will also be invaluable.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help.

Please give what help you can. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.