Into the aftermath of Irma
Joint British disaster response team Serve On and Team Rubicon UK is on its way to the storm-hit British Virgin Islands to help the communities devastated by Hurricane Irma.
A senior BVI government official had called for our volunteers' expertise but, with Hurricane Jose following in Irma's path and threatening the already-ravaged islands, even emergency flights to the area were few and far between.
With only military flights getting through, our frustrated seven-strong team had to wait out at Barbados airport for nearly 48 hours as they tried to secure transport to the disaster zone.
Now they are finally on their way to where they are most needed, but their time in Barbados was not wasted.
Even as they waited at Barbados airport on Friday, trying every possible avenue to get a flight, their extensive work helped to facilitate the return to the BVI’s main island, Tortola, of the Governor’s Permanent Secretary, David Archer.
Mr Archer had been stranded away from Tortola when Irma struck and his own home was one of the many severely damaged by the Hurricane.
The team were also able to offer remote assistance and advice to the islanders, but they knew how much more help they could be on the ground using their many skills.
The team may be a small one but between them boast more than 75 years of disaster response and search and rescue experience.
British military resources are now arriving on the Islands with heavy equipment and manpower but Serve On’s extensive assessment capabilities and water filtration equipment, along with technical search and flood rescue skills, could be invaluable in making sure the right aid goes to the right areas.
Meanwhile, other Serve On teams are being assembled for possible deployment to the region.
The 60 islands of the BVI suffered catastrophic damage when they found themselves in the direct path of Hurricane Irma and its 185mph winds which caused a 30ft storm surge flooding hundreds of properties near the coast.
Inland, whole communities were laid waste by the apocalyptic storm.
Images that have emerged from the islands have shown widespread flooding, scores of wind-destroyed homes and dozens of millionaires yachts piled on top of each other in Paraquita Bay.
Thousands of islanders, most of them on Tortola, have been left trapped by the hurricanes with their homes destroyed.
Mr Archer, the former acting Deputy Governor, said his people were stoical and would pitch in to help each other, but would welcome the assistance of Serve On.
A Royal Navy transport ship, RFA Mount Bay, which was already in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla, has moved to the British Virgin Islands and the Navy's flagship HMS Ocean will lead a group of helicopters, marines and engineers dispatched to the region and expected to arrive in two weeks.
The category 5 Hurricane Irma has claimed the lives of at least 20 people in the Caribbean.
The government has announced £12 million in immediate help to the Caribbean Islands but Serve On receives no government funding.
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.