A COUNTY tree surgeon is heading to the Caribbean to help in the relief operation following two devastating hurricanes.

Matt Long, who owns and runs Chapel Tree Services in Ross-on-Wye, will work alongside six other tree surgeons from the UK and will be using his 20 years of arboricultural experience as a volunteer with specialist disaster relief charity DART International UK.

The charity, now in its third year, deployed its first team to the Caribbean on September 24. The team has reported that the island of Dominica is 90% devastated and distributing aid will remain a huge challenge until the main ring road around the island is cleared of tree debris.

That work will fall to the DART team, who are believed to be the first UK-based team to arrive on the ground on the island.

Matt’s wife Jenny, who also volunteers with DART, said: "We have received confirmation so far that the DART team have based themselves in the airport fire station and they're already at work clearing roads.

"Our partners Rescue Global are flying in more water and fuel/oil for the chainsaws later today. Asked if we could do more to help, the local government replied, 'we could use 20 teams clearing roads.'

"We're not that big – yet – but at least we now have a second team heading out to help."

She said her husband was pleased to be offering his help; the present situation in the Caribbean is exactly what he and the other volunteers have trained for.

DART, which is almost entirely financed from within the UK Arborist Industry, set out with a fairly simple idea of creating an organisation that would help professionals from the industry donate their skills, energy and experience to help clear fallen trees and debris following natural disasters.

"Clearing roads and other vital infrastructure of fallen trees is always an immediate priority, because it allows rescue organisations and aid agencies to operate more safely and effectively,” said Jenny.

"Local community leaders and volunteers really value the service our teams deliver, but more importantly they've demonstrated a real appetite for learning the skills themselves. From our very first deployment to Vanuatu in the South Pacific in 2015, we learned that by delivering training and donating equipment like chainsaws, timber milling equipment and personal protective equipment, we could help rebuild livelihoods and make some of the most vulnerable communities in the world more resilient to future disasters.”

DART responders are all professionally qualified and experienced arborists but also bring a wealth of additional skills with them.

They will be leaving their families for a two week deployment and will be self-sufficient on the ground, bringing with them all that they need to carry out their work.

Follow the team's progress and donate to their cause online at dartinternational.co.uk or facebook.com/DARTInternationalUK