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PICTURES: Crew Of Cornish Ship Go Ashore In Ebola Zone
6:02am 5th November 2014
Crew from Falmouth's RFA Argus come face-to-face wtih families in the ebola zone.
Marines are carrying out survey work in Sierra Leone.
The hospital ship arrived last week, packed with medical supplies to try to stop the deadly virus spreading.
The men - from two Plymouth-based units 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines and 42 Commando - went ashore at Lungi Beach, near the country's main international airport. They met with residents who told them about the area and conducted an underwater survey to confirm beach gradients to check if suitable for landing craft landing.
Leading the small shore team was Sergeant John McDonald of 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines. He said: "The reception we received was overwhelming; I'd say that more than 150 people met us when we landed on the beach. We explained that we were there to carry out survey work and they really wanted to help by providing us with local knowledge. As a result we managed to gather more information than we had expected about the local area, while at the same time we were able to deploy a sonar on one of the Zodiacs to confirm the suitability of the beach for landings."
RFA Argus was deployed to the West African country where she has begun playing an important logistical role with three embarked Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose being used to transport British medical teams, stores and aid experts deployed to help tackle the Ebola virus.
The ship also carries two landing craft vehicle personnel, three rigid hull inflatable boats, and six small Zodiac inflatable boats from 539 squadron which will move stores, equipment and personnel inland along Sierra Leone rivers.
The Royal Marines landing party travelled in a landing craft and two Zodiacs before going ashore at Lungi Beach. Corporal Gavin Smith was at the helm of the landing craft. He said: "The response from the local community was really positive, and despite Ebola being a major issue in West Africa, it seems that life is continuing as normal. All of our commandos have undergone rigorous counter Ebola training and adhered to these measures while ashore."
The Royal Marines will continue with survey work in different areas in order to assist their longer term logistical role in transporting equipment, stores and personnel.
The UK is leading the international response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone by diagnosing and isolating Ebola cases more quickly, trebling the number of treatment beds, supporting burial teams and researching a vaccine.
In addition, the UK has committed £225 million to this disease. This includes: Supporting 700 treatment beds to help up to 8,800 patients over 6 months; shoring up the country's stretched public health services to help contain the disease. This includes vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers; 200 community care centres where people who suspect they might be suffering from the disease can seek swift and accurate diagnosis and appropriate care;
More than 800 military personnel will be deployed in total to help with the establishment of Ebola Treatment Centres and an Ebola Training Academy. Around 450 of these personnel are already on the ground.
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