Britain increases aid for Caribbean islands hit by Hurricane Irma

Royal Engineers and Royal Marines visiting Albina Lake Hodge Comprehensive school to asses the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, in the Island of Anguilla on September 12, 2017. PHOTO: EPA/CPL TIMOTHY JONES RLC/BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENCE HANDOUT

LONDON (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday (Sept 13) announced an extra £25 million (S$44.6 million) in aid for its territories in the Caribbean that have been devastated by Hurricane Irma.

The funds were announced as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, pledging "our absolute commitment" to Britons there.

"Today I'm announcing an additional £25 million to support the recovery effort, further to the £32 million of assistance I announced last week," Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons.

More than 1,000 military personnel are now in the region, with another 200 due to arrive within days, along with more than 60 police officers, she said.

May - facing criticism of the British response - insisted that her government's reaction had been "speedy."

"The devastation that has taken place means there will be a significant need for reconstruction in those British Overseas Territories," she said.

"We will be working with our overseas territories to ensure we are able to see those countries actually brought to life once again, and people able to have an economy and a good life there."

Speaking to the Press Association news agency en route to the Caribbean, Johnson said: "What they're seeing is an unprecedented UK response, but I want to stress it is not just for the short-term, we are going to be there for the long term as well."

The chief minister of Anguilla, Victor Banks, told the Press Association that the bill to repair his island's infrastructure alone could reach £1 billion.

Nine people were killed in the British territories in the hurricane out of a total of at least 50 dead in the region.

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