UK arborists to provide emergency help in wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria

A UK team of arborists is poised to provide emergency aid to hurricane-hit areas of the Caribbean, but has been unable to reach the area as aid efforts to address the initial Hurricane Irma have been hampered by the subsequent Hurricane Maria.

Image: Cayobo (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Cayobo (CC BY 2.0)

The four-man team from Disaster Arborist Response Team (DART) International UK were due to fly out this week to clear wind-blown trees and debris, as well as providing training to local people in safe use of chainsaws and tree clearance.

Operations manager Mike Metcalfe told Horticulture Week: "It's very frustrating, although missing Maria out there has perhaps been a blessing in disguise.

"The challenge has been access to the worst-hit areas. The ports and airports have been trashed, and our local partners Rescue Global have had to pull out of their base in Puerto Rico. They are now looking at returning there or elsewhere. Meanwhile we are all sitting on our hands waiting to go."

He explained: "Tree damage is widespread across the region. We will put in a four-man team to address the high-priority work for an initial two weeks, who will then be relieved by a second follow-up team. We are not short of volunteers and they are from all corners of the UK."

The DART initiative began three years ago and this will be its fourth overseas deployment. "There was nothing like it before and we have learned more each time," Metcalfe said.

"The priority tends to be the schools as that then leaves to parents free to rebuild their lives. We are also training in use of chainsaw milling systems, so they can process the felled wood for useable timber."

He added: "We get great suport from the industry. Makita UK has donated the tools, Fletcher Stewart some equipment and PPE, while Först dealer Redwood Global, the Arboriculture Association and EOS Contracting have helped with funding."

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