Hurricane Irma: UK territory declares state of emergency

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Media caption“Heartbroken”: Hear the British Virgin Islands governor declare a state of emergency after Hurricane Irma

A state of emergency has been declared in a British Overseas Territory hit by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean.

British Virgin Islands governor Gus Jaspert said there were reports of casualties and fatalities, and help had been requested from the UK.

Mr Jaspert said he was “truly heartbroken by this news”.

The UK government has increased the relief fund for British overseas territories devastated by Hurricane Irma from £12m to £32m.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Theresa May as she said the government had responded “swiftly” to the disaster.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the government was doing all it could to help people affected.

But Baroness Amos said it was felt the UK “did not respond” quickly enough.

In an audio message, Mr Jaspert said: “I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

“After consultation with the premier, I have declared a state of emergency for the territory.

“Radio and other communication channels are extremely limited. And so I am reaching out with this message via any channel possible.

“Please do pass it on by any means accessible to you.”

Howling winds and rough seas battered the low-lying British territory of Turks and Caicos, ripping off roofs, flooding streets, snapping utility poles and causing a widespread black-out on the main island of Grand Turk.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said British overseas territory Anguilla received the hurricane’s “full blast” while the British Virgin Islands would need “extensive humanitarian assistance”.

At least one death has been reported on Anguilla, according to local officials.

British territory Montserrat was “swiped” but the damage was not as bad as first thought, Sir Alan said.

Royal Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay is in the region and HMS Ocean is also being sent but is not expected to arrive for another two weeks.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said “world-leading humanitarian experts” as well as 200 shelter kits had been sent to the region as part of the UK’s response.

Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing buildings to rubble and leaving at least 10 people dead.

The Queen said she and the Duke of Edinburgh had been shocked and saddened by reports of the devastation.

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