Winds force evacuation of MoD staff on St Kilda


THE MINISTRY of Defence was forced to evacuate St Kilda amidst safety fears during last week’s storm, it has emerged.

The chain of islands was last evacuated in 1930 when the last of the St Kildans, 36 in total, left for good after suffering from food shortages, illness and a lack of young people.

This time the British government department responsible for implementing the defence policy had to flee from the Hebridean island after winds battered their base.

Fifteen employees were helicoptered off the island by Stornoway Coastguard on Friday after buildings and equipment were damaged in winds which exceed 100 miles per hour.

No-one was reported to have been injured and families expressed their relief that loved ones were transferred to safety on the island of Benbecula in the Western Isles, where the MoD has a missile range.

The workers are understood still to be on Benbecula and it is not clear when they will return to St Kilda.

The MoD has had a permanently manned radar tracking station on Hirta, the largest island of the St Kilda archipelago, since 1957.

MoD personnel are on the island to operate a radar tracking system linked to the Benbecula missile range.

A spokesman for the MoD referred enquiries to private defence technology firm QinetiQ operate the facility on their behalf.

A spokesman for QinetiQ said the island, 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, was evacuated due to “extreme weather”.

He continued: “The safety of our people is our top priority, so as a precaution our 15 employees were airlifted from the island at around 3pm by the coastguard.

“There were no casualties, although the winds did cause damage to buildings and equipment.

“We will carry out a full assessment into the extent of the damage when conditions improve.”
He added: “Employees are now back at work in the Uists and a recovery plan is already in motion.”

A spokeswoman for Stornoway Coastguard said “accomodation was damaged” during the storm on Thursday night into Friday morning.

“We were called about midday Friday,” she confirmed.

Meanwhile families sent a message of gratitude to Stornoway Coastguard on Twitter.

Tracy from Clydebank wrote: [email protected] a massive thanks to the crew who brought the guys from St Kilda to Benbecula yesterday following the winds #gratefulfamily”