Boris Johnson: Criticism of UK response to Hurricane Irma completely unjustified

Boris Johnson has defended the Government's response to Hurricane Irma, insisting that criticism of its reaction to the "biggest consular crisis" the country had faced was "completely unjustified".

The Foreign Secretary faced claims that the UK had done less to evacuate its citizens than other nations and did not have the correct equipment in place to deal with the catastrophe in the Caribbean.

Mr Johnson said there had been an "unprecedented" effort to deal with the aftermath of the biggest storm in the region since records began.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Johnson was challenged about claims from the father of a stranded Briton that the Government's response had shown a "callous disregard" to its citizens.

Geoffrey Scott Baker, whose daughter Amy Brown is on Saint Martin, said: "Nothing is happening.

"It seems that everybody can airlift their citizens out except for the UK who are doing absolutely nothing on the ground."

He said his daughter was at risk from looters targeting her resort and added: "The British response has been absolutely pitiful, it's just sheer incompetence, callous disregard for our British citizens."

Mr Johnson responded that Saint Martin was controlled by the Dutch and French who had been evacuating people in accordance with their medical need.

"Some British nationals actually have been evacuated from Saint Martin," he said.

"This is a very big consular crisis and I am confident we are doing everything we possibly can to help British nationals."

Defending the UK's preparedness for the disaster, Mr Johnson said: "It doesn't make any sense when a hurricane is impending to send in heavy aircraft or to send in ships that are not going to be capable themselves of withstanding the storm.

"The French had to ask us for assistance later on because we had got the right sort of kit there.

"If you look at what is happening now you can see an unprecedented British effort to deal with what has been an unprecedented catastrophe for the region."

Mr Johnson said the UK had responded in a "timely and a highly organised fashion", with further promises of support expected on top of the £32 million already committed and the pledge to match donations to the Red Cross appeal.

"We will be announcing further support later on in the course of the next few days," he said.

"This is an absolute priority for our Government and we understand the huge economic blow that has been suffered in these islands."

AP


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