Operation HUGO

International Operation Name: not applicable

International Operation Dates:  not applicable

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name:  Caribbean

Location:  Montserrat and Nevis

Canadian Operation Name: Operation HUGO

Canadian Operation Dates: 1989/09/22 – 1989/10/15

Mission Mandate:

To deliver humanitarian aid to Montserrat and Nevis

Mission Notes:

Hurricane Hugo started as tropical depression off the coast of Africa on 9 September. By the time it reached the islands of Guadeloupe and Montserrat near midnight on 17 September, it was category 5 storm. That same night it reached the US Virgin Islands, laying shambles to the island of St. Croix. Hugo then headed northward, hitting the eastern tip of Puerto Rico on the 19th. A weakened Hugo then gained strength before hitting South Carolina.

The 225 km/h (140 mph) winds that hit Guadeloupe and Montserrat killed at least 21 people and left 12,000 homeless, including almost the entire population of Montserrat. St. Croix suffered a similar fate with 80 percent of homes destroyed or damaged, while 12 people were killed and 30,00 left homeless on Puerto Rico after 260 km/h (160 mph winds). Damage estimates ran to $10 billion.

Following a request from the Canadian High Commissioner in Barbados for Canadian Forces assistance, a recce team was dispatched to Antigua to work with the Caribbean Community Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU). Priorities were established in collaboration with the CDRU and after further reconnaissance of the affected islands.

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) efforts in Montserrat would focus on re-opening the airport to facilitate the further distribution of food and other supplies. To that end, on 22 September Canada provided a nine-member Air Traffic Communications and Control Unit (ATCCU) from CAFB Trenton to set up a mobile control tower and beacon to guide future relief flights through the tricky approach to the field.

In addition, the CAF would supply five auxiliary power units and an engineer detachment. These arrived by 30 September. The 30-man engineering team was composed of field engineers and one mechanic from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, signalers from the Special Service Force (SSF) and SSF Headquarters, construction engineer tradesmen from across Canada and medical personnel from 2 Field Ambulance. The Engineers rebuilt the fence around the airport (to keep cattle from straying onto the runway), fixed the approach lights, repaired the roof of the control tower and terminal, and set up Canadian and foreign supplied APUs and power poles.

Elsewhere in the city, a medical technician and plumber restored the water supply to the hospital. Meanwhile, three engineers were sent to Nevis to install an APU there, and 436 Squadron flew missions to Antigua, Aruba, Costa Rica and Montserrat.

The last Canadians returned to Canada on 15 October. 

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