The British Red Cross has launched an appeal for people caught in the path of Hurricane Irma, including in UK overseas territories in the Caribbean.
The category five hurricane is the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
Trevor Botting, former chief of police on St Helena, has been posting updates on Twitter from the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he is in the same role. “It’s going to be a rough few days,” he wrote, with the storm expected to hit on Thursday evening.
Red Cross teams in Barbuda and the British territory of Anguilla are reporting extensive damage. Its volunteers have been gathering relief supplies in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Photographs from the British Virgin Islands have shown a large fleet of hire yachts piled up on one another, with many overturned.
In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have promised strong support, especially for the UK territories.
Mr Johnson said: “Our thoughts go out to the people who have been affected, to those families who have lost loved ones, and as you can expect we are doing everything we can with humanitarian relief and assistance.
“We have the fleet auxiliary boat RFS Mounts Bay in the vicinity, we have people on the ground.
“But what we will be doing now is making an urgent assessment of the further needs of communities in the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla to see what more can be done in terms of financial and humanitarian assistance.”
Ben Webster, head of emergencies at the British Red Cross, said: “Given the scale of the anticipated emergency, any response will likely be highly complex. Some of the islands that are expected to be hit are isolated, and lack basic infrastructure.
“The impact on those communities could be catastrophic.
“Many of the Red Cross branches are already in response mode as they have been dealing with floods in the weeks before Hurricane Irma. Now they must prepare for another emergency – and another storm is following behind.”