An Accrington relief worker who witnessed first-hand the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has spoken of the aftermath of some of the most devastating storms in history.
Ex-Army serviceman Shane Killaway was deployed to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and said it looked like ‘armageddon’ after being battered by 150mph winds.
The 47-year-old was part of Team Rubicon - an international disaster response team - and spent more than two weeks helping to rebuild schools, nursing homes and clear away tonnes of debris strewn across roads.
Shane was one of the first people to support volunteers to arrive in the region and his team were supported in their efforts with a specially arranged flight from business magnate Sir Richard Branson.
Shane told the Observer: “It looked like armageddon when we got there. It was an absolute disaster with massive infrastructure damage.
“It was very emotional. You meet people who have simply lost everything.
“I gave them all that I had and only returned with a pair of shorts, a shirt and flip flops.
“A lot of the richer people on the island managed to get away in time so it was just the ordinary working people on the island who were left behind and suffered.
“It’s battered them emotionally and we saw people walking round aimlessly.
"They have had everything taken away from them and it’s had a devastating effect on them psychologically.”
Shane was called up for his first relief effort on September 15 and flew out from Brize Norton to Barbados on September 18 after being given permission by his employer Lancashire County Council.
The former Hollins and Accrington and Rossendale College student was given accommodation by an international school and has praised the ‘resilience’ of the island’s inhabitants who are ‘trying to come to terms with the aftermath’.
He said: “We were the first international response team to go to the island and it was quite an achievement as it was a big logistical problem to get there.
“We contacted Richard Branson’s office and he came forward and chartered a jet.
“As soon as we arrived we got straight to work. The people were overwhelmed to see friendly faces on the ground.
"They showed us lots of compassion and smiles, which was incredible considering what they’ve gone through.”