Sunderland's adopted warship is ready to distribute toys to Hurricane Irma victims

Chaplain Paul Andrew with some of the gifts.
Chaplain Paul Andrew with some of the gifts.

Children left with nothing after Hurricane Irma unleashed devastation across the Caribbean are receiving new toys courtesy of the crew of Sunderland's adopted warship.

The gifts are on top of more than 5,000 hygiene kits, 500,000 water purification tablets and 10,000 buckets to be distributed across the Virgin Islands by HMS Ocean.

The collection of gifts.

The collection of gifts.

The category five storm, the strongest recorded in decades, battered much of the region earlier this month, leaving homes flattened, trees stripped bare and uprooted and people's lives in tatters.

The helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, whose officers and ratings have the Freedom of the City of Sunderland, was quickly rerouted from duties in the Mediterranean with the crew buying presents with money collected while they were in Gibraltar.

Chaplain Paul Andrew from Tavistock, Devon, said fundraising buckets were put out across the ship.

The 47-year-old father of three, who is known on board HMS Ocean as "Bish", said through "generosity and raising money" they now have more than £2,000 worth of toys which will be distributed to children who have been left with nothing.

"Once people knew what it was for, they were just really generous in the shops," he added.

"When you know children are involved, it becomes even more personal - especially if you have children yourself and you see them suffering on the television and that's why people wanted to help out."

Arriving in the region on Friday, HMS Ocean, which is soon to be decommissioned, is set to begin distributing donations of clothing, as well as the toys and sweets, to the young victims of Hurricane Irma who lost everything when the storm ravaged the region.

The items have since been sorted into gender and age-appropriate bags, and packed up with sweets, ready to be handed out across the islands from today.

"We know for a fact that wherever we go it is going to make a difference," he said.

"It is going to be great to give out some of the stuff, because you know they are going to appreciate it."

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