AROUND 400 Royal Marines from Norton Manor Camp are in the Caribbean assisting the relief effort following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

Commanding Officer Lieut Col Paul Maynard has described the scenes on a number of islands as "heart breaking".

But he has praised the efforts of the team from 40 Commando, which was deployed from its Norton Fitzwarren base in less than 24 hours.

Their tasks have included supporting the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) relief projects, security stabilisation and generally assistance.

Lieut Col Maynard said: "40 commando is forming the core of the land component of the UK joint task force in the Caribbean, primarily in British Virgin Islands, Tortola, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos.

"We're working with Army engineers on a range of specialist projects across the British military, including medics, helicopters and air crew, logistics, specialist engineers for reconstruction tasks, and working with civilian police for security and stabilisation.

"It's a relatively small force of 400 under my command, with elements on the ground and small teams providing reassurance and security.

"We're only about four days into the operations, having been deployed in less than 24 hours' notice and arriving on the ground 24 hours after that.

"It's been a really good effort by the Commandos and the effects have been tangible."

Referring to the impact of the hurricane, he added: "It's heartbreaking to see the damage that's been done to so many people's lives, especially the poorest people.

"People's houses and livelihoods have been destroyed. They've been left with nothing. It's been emotionally exhausting for them, a really trying, tragic week.

"But they've been buoyed by the presence of the UK military and appreciate what we're trying to do.

"The enemy of this operation is time. Everything is a rush to get help to the point of need.

"We're delighted to be here to do everything we possible can to help. I predict it's going to last for several weeks."

Speaking about the troops under his control, Lieut Col Maynard said: "The Commandos have shown focus, resilience, compassion, accepting a lot of risk and just getting on with it in really austere, uncertain conditions.

"They deserve their title of some of the best of our armed forces."