The British government has been asked to explain its response to Hurricane Irma, which has been deemed inadequate compared to other nations' efforts.

On Friday (8 September), Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a Cobra meeting as she personally took control of the government's response to the natural disaster that has battered the Caribbean for a week and is expected to hit Florida over the weekend.

"Our military personnel, our troops, have been working round the clock there and we owe them a great debt of gratitude," the PM said.

However, Tom Tugendhat and Stephen Twigg, the chairs of the UK's foreign affairs and development select committees, have written to the government demanding an explanation over its ponderous response to the catastrophe.

"Experts and many in the area have been critical of the overall level of relief currently on offer as well as the apparent lack of forward-thinking once the storm's route to Florida became more than just a possibility," they said.

"We are concerned that many in the UK's overseas territories in the Caribbean are still in grave need.

"In Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos, our response still requires improvement and the arrival of HMS Ocean in two weeks' time will be later than any of us would wish."

Their criticism of the government comes after Jeremy Corbyn also attacked the way May and her ministers handled the humanitarian crisis. The Labour leader insisted the government "should have acted much faster" given news about the storm's path was well known.

Criticism of the government was not limited to the opposition benches, with Lord Naseby, a Conservative peer, claiming ministers should explain why they had failed to do more to protect "hundreds of thousands" of British citizens potentially in peril.

"Given that hurricanes are not new in the Caribbean and always happen at this time of the year, why is it there was no standby facility to deal with this sort of emergency given that we see that France and Holland had prepared and as a result were able to react much more speedily than we were able to do?," he said.

"Why was it given that last weekend when it was quite clear this was potentially the worst hurricane ever to hit the Caribbean, there was no voice, no questioning, no statement from the Department for International Development [Dfid] and it took until Wednesday for Dfid to indicate what they were doing."

The PM also announced the government will be increasing the relief fund for British Overseas Territories left devastated Irma from £12m to £32m, following criticism from former UN head of humanitarian relief Baroness Amos, who believed the UK "did not respond" quickly enough to the disaster.

However, government minister Lord Compton said the British response had not been as swift as that of their French and Dutch counterparts because it did not have troops stationed on the islands.

On Friday, the RFA Mounts Bay arrived in the British Virgin Island, where at least four people were killed and a state of emergency has been declared and it will also assist with rescue and cleaning operations in Anguilla.

Also on Friday, at least three RAF planes carrying equipment and approximately 200 Royal Marines took off towards the Caribbean from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.