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Merlins from 845 NAS refuelling and awaiting a load lift from RFA Argus
US Army CH47


Published: 28 Nov 2020

Tonnes of food, fresh water and shelters for hurricane-ravaged communities in Central America have been delivered by the Royal Navy.

Naval aviators are dropping emergency life-saving aid into Honduras after Hurricanes Eta and Iota steamrollered through the region.  

Support ship RFA Argus has been deployed to waters off north-eastern Honduras, supporting ongoing relief operations led by the United States military after the destructive storms caused flooding and landslides, leaving millions of Hondurans displaced. 

Argus is being used as a ‘lily pad’ for US Army Chinooks to fly aid missions, while navy Merlin and Wildcat helicopters have been gathering vital information on reconnaissance sorties, which have aided the operations led by US Southern Command and Joint Task Force Bravo.

The Royal Navy’s latest mission has been to make special aid packages, including emergency shelters, food, water and sanitation products, and drop them inland.

Lieutenant George Day, a pilot of a Royal Navy Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron, said: “UK aid and relief stores are held on Argus and we have been flying them from ship to shore. 

“The stores are loaded into 500kg bags which are carried in pairs beneath the aircraft. We hover over the deck and our load team hook them on for us to carry away. Moving stores in this way is the Commando Merlin’s bread and butter and it is fantastic to use our skills to help those in need.”

In all, 101 different bags of aid – weighing a collective 24 tonnes – were packaged and dropped to aid stations during a 48-hour mission.

Once deposited at the aid stations, US teams coordinate with local charities and the Honduran police forces on the ground to pass the emergency relief stores to those most in need.

Royal Navy Commander Kate Muir is the head of the UK Task Group in the Caribbean.

She said: “Argus continued to support US military disaster relief operations in Honduras after it was hit by two hurricanes in quick succession.

“Operating Royal Navy and American helicopters from the ship’s deck, they flew to conduct damage assessment and to deliver 24 tonnes of humanitarian aid to remote locations ashore. 

“Our sailors, soldiers and Royal Marines have been operating in the Caribbean since April, and have regularly rehearsed their response to the aftermath of a hurricane. They were well prepared, well equipped and responded quickly to assist in Honduras.”

Argus has been in the region since Hurricane Eta hit earlier in the month and was quickly on hand again in the wake of Iota, which swept the region last week. 

That contribution has been acknowledged by the Hondurans, with the Governor’s Office in the region of Gracias a Dios noting the UK’s efforts and the country’s president Juan Orlando Hernandez planning to speak to the Argus’ commanding officer, Captain Kevin Rimell, directly to offer personal thanks for the ship’s quick response during the crisis.

Alongside military assistance, the UK is providing vital disaster recovery kit – including shelter, cooking and sanitation kits – and £1m to the Red Cross emergency appeal.

The support ship has been deployed to the Caribbean along with HMS Medway to provide support to British Overseas Territories during hurricane season and they have also had repeated success in counter-narcotics operations. Medway remains in the Caribbean as Argus carries out tasks in Honduras.


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