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UPDATE: Cornwall Joins Ebola Battle

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7:43am 31st October 2014
(Updated 7:43am 31st October 2014)

The Captain of the Cornish ship at the frontline of the battle against ebola says his crew are fully prepped and ready to go.

Falmouth's RFA Argus arrived in Sierra Leone on Thursday.

The hospital ship is packed full of medical supplies, ordered to try to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Captain David Eagles said: "It has been a very busy passage south from the UK. Aviation training has been ongoing to get all aircrew used to operating from the ship. A number of briefings and training have also taken place to ensure we are all familiar with our procedures and drills to keep our people safe while delivering the mission.
"Now that RFA ARGUS has arrived in country we are all looking forward to playing our part and doing our best to contribute to the DFID-led mission to contain the spread of the disease."

He added that now the ship in the ebola zone, getting the Culdrose helicopters out to sea is priority number one: "Yes we'll be kept extremely busy, servicing, operating and maintaining the helicopters, launching and deploying the Royal Marines in the areas surrounding Freetown and of course, just maintaining the ship in good working order which is a full-time job in itself."

Working in support of the Government of Sierra Leone and deployed DfID and military personnel, Argus will now play an important logistical role.

Three Merlin Mk2 helicopters, from RNAS Culdrose's 820 Naval Air Squadron, will be used to facilitate the rapid movement of British Army medical teams, stores and aid experts deployed to help tackle the Ebola Virus.

Two landing craft vehicle personnel and three rigid hull inflatable boats, from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, will be used for moving stores, equipment and personnel inland along the river network.

Commander Ross Spooner from Culdrose is in charge of the three Merlin helicopters: "The significant part of our role is to utilise the aircraft's inherent flexibility in terms of its lift capability, its ability to move people quickly and at range to provide that flexibility to initially both set up and then sustain a number of disparate medical facilities.

"Having the aviation element is pretty much vital to the mission. Providing the ability both to establish and more importantly then to sustain the life support requirements in terms of food, water, medical provisions etc; that is where the aircraft will really come into their own."

Everybody coming back to the ship will be given a medical questionnaire, to check for contamination.

Medical Officer Lieutenant Dan Hawkins said: "Any individual coming on board will be screened before coming on board, with simple measures just by taking their temperature, individuals who do then come on board will then be monitored.

"If there is any suspicion that we do have an Ebola patient on board then they will be evacuated off the ship into the specific Ebola treatment facilities that will be set up shore side in Sierra Leone."

"I am immensely proud of the commitment our troops - both regular and reserve - who are playing a pivotal role in delivering Britain's response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone", said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. "The arrival of RFA Argus reinforces the great work already done ashore and demonstrates how the British military's expertise will be used to support the government of Sierra Leone as together we tackle the spread of this appalling disease."

7:43am 31st October 2014

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