Hurricane Irma freed as many as 100 prisoners in the British Virgin Islands, who are now believed to be running through the territory, a top UK official said Tuesday.
Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan told members of Parliament there was a “serious threat of the complete breakdown of law and order” on the islands, the BBC reports.
Royal Marines have also been deployed to “protect the Governor.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is also headed to the Caribbean to assess the damage. The government has been under fire for what stranded Britons say has been a slow storm response.
Hurricane Irma destroyed at least 25% of homes in Florida Keys
It’s unclear where the prisoners were held when the then-Category 5 hurricane made landfall last Wednesday on the four-island territory.
An unidentified British woman living on the islands told the Press Association a prison on Tortola was ripped open during the storm.
The woman said her partner, Leo Whitting, stayed behind while she decided to flee the storm.
Now, she told the Press Association, he has to be vigilant when he’s outside.
U.S. women’s hockey team safe after riding out Hurricane Irma
“The military is everywhere with machine guns. Everyone’s turned feral and no one’s going out without being armed,” she told the British news service. “You can’t drive your car without a weapon, it’s turning really nasty. Leo carries a knife with him.”
Sam Branson — son of billionaire Richard Branson — warned of the dire situation in a video earlier this week.
“I’ve been getting some updates on the ground out there on the British Virgin Islands and it’s really sad to say that there is a lot of civil unrest,” the younger Branson said in the video. “Unfortunately some of the prisoners have escaped and are now armed.”
British territories — which have their own governments but rely on the UK for some support — were hit hard by the storm.
‘Real Housewives’ star under fire for Irma private jet photo
At least five people died on the British Virgin Islands, and four more died on Anguilla — another territory further east in the Caribbean.
Nearly 1,000 troops and almost 50 cops have been deployed to the British Virgin Islands, Duncan told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“We have maintained and kept law and order on the BVI which at one point could have dramatically threatened the already unfortunate plight of those that have been hit by the hurricane,” he reportedly told members of Parliament.
Send a Letter to the Editor