France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have decided to join efforts in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis currently affecting their overseas territories. In order to help relief local populations, they decided to bring a coordinate a military answer in support of civilian crisis management.
The joint force is deploying military assets in the Caribbean to support their local authorities. As a result, French PHA Dixmude, British RFA Argus and Dutch HNLMS Karel Doorman have been sent to the region.
This cooperation will be operated by a regional military joint coordination cell which will be located in Fort de France (Martinique, France). Its mission will be to optimize national military contributions to support States’ action. This mechanism should provide more agility and flexibility in the response to the spread of the virus throughout the Caribbean.
Inspired by lessons drawn from their military cooperation during hurricane Irma in 2017, as well as discussions in EI2 format, the three nations intend to benefit from this experience by better coordinating their actions in a spirit of mutual support and European solidarity.
The Royal Navy’s Caribbean task group has joined forces in Montserrat for the first time as it prepares for the impending hurricane season.
Helicopter carrier/support ship RFA Argus linked up with the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the region, HMS Medway, to begin their combined disaster relief planning and preparations.
It’s just six weeks till the storm season begins – and in almost every year for the past couple of decades, Royal Navy or Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships in the Caribbean have been called upon to assist island communities, most recently Bahamians in the wake of Hurricane Dorian last autumn.
In Montserrat, Argus’ air group was reminded of the devastating power of Nature – but not a storm.
Half the island – including its capital Plymouth – remains out of bounds, the result of a series of eruptions from the Soufrière Hills volcano, which had been dormant for hundreds of years.
The crisis reached its climax in 1997, destroying 80 per cent of Plymouth, destroying the island’s only hospital and airport, burying it in mud and ash up to 12 metres deep.
Destroyer HMS Liverpool helped islanders move to the north side of Montserrat, although two-thirds of the population subsequently emigrated to the UK.
Soufrière Hills remains active and every year the Royal Navy supports the Montserrat Volcano Observatory by helping the scientists to re-locate seismic sensors and equipment.
In addition, wherever Argus visits as part of her deployment to the region she’s sending her helicopters – three Merlin troop carriers from 845 Naval Air Squadron and one smaller Wildcat maritime patrol aircraft – into the skies to provide the latest information on helicopter and beach landing sites if the worst should happen.
They’ve already scouted Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla but the ghostly ruins of Plymouth were a stark reminder of the planet’s power when unchecked.