POLICE officers from Hampshire have been sent to the Caribbean to help residents affected by the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

Following official requests made through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a total of 55 British police officers will be providing support to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Police Force.

It comes after Hurricane Irma – then a category five storm, the highest level given – struck BVI on Wednesday, killing at least four people. The total death toll is thought to be at least 20 people.

The National Police Co-ordination Centre (NPoCC) is working with government partners and the Ministry of Defence to deploy two members of the UK police cadre to the region to help co-ordinate the policing aspects of the response and a contingent of British officers to the British Virgin Islands to assist the local police.

While there, officers will be embedded with the military HQ and will support the local force in maintaining law and order. Duties could also include assisting in locating missing people, including British nationals, liaising with UK authorities and assisting with family liaison.

Two members of the UK police cadre, who offer support to the military in times of international crisis, flew out on Friday evening, and a further 53 British officers from 14 police forces are due to leave Brize Norton today.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for international policing and former Hampshire chief constable Andy Marsh said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this horrific disaster. Through NPoCC we are mobilising police officers who have the experience and expertise to assist complex crisis operations. We received offers of support from officers across the country as soon as this crisis began.

"These officers, and the many others who volunteered, signify our commitment to help those in need and humanitarian instinct of the British police force, no matter where in the world.

"This is a fast-moving operation. We are working around the clock to get British police support to where it is needed most."