DISASTER relief charities from Salisbury are supporting communities in the Caribbean hit by Hurricane Irma.

Volunteers from Serve On, based at Salisbury fire station, and Team Rubicon UK in Chilmark headed out to the region after the category five hurricane struck causing thousands of people to be evacuated with buildings destroyed and major flooding.

Twisted steel hangars, mangled light aircraft, a destroyed helicopter hanging in trees, and battered boats were scenes that greeted volunteers at Terrance B Lettsome airport on Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands on Sunday. The team set to work repairing some of the damage done by the hurricane, the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.

They restored fencing around the airport’s perimeter, cleared broken seats and air conditioning units inside the terminal, and cleared a space for the British military to stack much-needed food and water.

Team Rubicon UK volunteers include operations manager Dan Cooke, a former firefighter from Salisbury, who has been Tortola in the British Virgin Islands leading a joint team of volunteers from the two charities.

He said: “The devastation across the country is unrelenting. Nowhere has escaped the extraordinarily powerful winds. Mile upon mile of debris has been scattered, without a single leaf left on any of the trees. Trees, cars, trucks, air-conditioning units, super yachts, speedboats, everything is randomly scattered across the island.

“The marinas have boats floating upside down, masts broken and some stacked on top of each other. Likewise, the hills have carcasses of cars hanging off the sides of the steep slopes. The small roads, which wind their way around the island, are covered in debris, and the ones adjacent to the sea have been totally washed away. Telegraph poles lay scattered at different angles along the roadside with wires hanging perilously from them."

“It is evident that the Team Rubicon UK and Serve On team are the first out on the ground and 90 percent of the population are absolutely delighted to see us. They have no electricity, no running water, they are short of food and essential supplies but are working together to clear up,” he added.

“However, in some locations, it seems that disorder is starting to take place with evidence of small-scale looting. There is also a shortage of fuel across the island, resulting in cars queuing for what looked like hours.”

Flights have proved a challenge but there has been great support from private plane owners as well as airlines who have offered help to transport volunteers. Teams have also landed in Turks and Caicos and Antigua.

To support the response visit totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/Hurricanes2017

Team Rubicon UK and Serve On recently returned from a mission to the Philippines where they helped provide disaster training to first responders in Cebu and rebuilt a school.