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Government Information Service Tel: (809) 491-/4851/7164
Chief Minister's Office Fax: (809) 491-7227
P.O.Box 292
Plymouth, Montserrat
West Indies January 17, 1995

Re-Occupation Of Eastern Communities
January 17, 1996

Joint media presentation by His Excellency, the Governor, Frank Savage LVO, OBE and The Honourable Chief Minister, Reuben T Meade.

About three weeks ago the scientists of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory held a major review of the state of activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano following which the Chief Minister and I were able to allow most citizens of Montserrat who had been evacuated on 1st and 2nd December, 1995 to return to their homes. The scientists undertook to hold a further review of the situation on 15th January, 1996 for the eastern communities who were not permitted to return in early January.

This scientific review has today re-affirmed the continued stabilization of activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano, and as a result we are now able to announce a further return to normalcy across the island. Scientists of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory have informed the Government of Montserrat that they have a reduced level of concern based on continuing studies of the Soufriere Hills Volcano. This means that from 1830hrs this evening residents of the Eastern Districts may return to areas evacuated since 1st December, 1995.

The current decision comes weeks after residents of the Eastern Corridor, the capital Plymouth and areas south to St Patrick's had returned home. Our relocation to the north on 1st December, 1995 was necessitated by the threat of a volcanic eruption without warning which the scientists informed us could have affected the capital, Plymouth and communities lying on the East and South-West flanks of the volcano. Unfortunately, the level of risk continued to exist for residents of the East beyond 1st January, 1996.

Our decision-making capacity has been bolstered by major input from our world class team of scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. The results of their latest major review reflect a studied response after several weeks of intense monitoring and evaluation of scientific data. The scientists now report that:

The scientists, assisted by a range of sophisticated instruments, remain confident of their ability to provide adequate notice should there be a danger of a renewed escalation of volcanic activity. Against this background of scientific advice, the Government of Montserrat is today advising the public of the re-occupation of the residential areas of Spanish pointe, Bethel, Bramble's Village, Tuitt's, White's and Long Ground. The public is advised to take seriously the concern expressed by scientists concerning the level of risk beyond Long Ground. Please refrain from taking casual visits especially to the Tar River area.

The current re-occupation is expected to be completed over the next two days starting today Monday, 15th January and continuing through Tuesday, 16th January, 1996. The Emergency Operations Centre will be providing the usual transport assistance to allow for the smooth re-settlement of residents. Transportation is available for those persons who may wish to get home this evening and between 10am and twelve noon tomorrow Tuesday, 16th January. The Ministry of Health and Education will be issuing a statement shortly to advise members of the public on the status of medical services for the returning communities and the adjustment in the time-table for school in the affected communities. As previously indicated the scientists will present another review within the next two weeks regarding the return to Plymouth of the Glendon Hospital and the Margetson Memorial Home. Both institutions remain in the north on a pre-cautionary basis for the next two weeks.

Again, please understand that this re-occupation may not mean the end of the crisis. Do continue to remain vigilant while the volcano continues at its present level of activity. Remember our disaster preparedness theme-Be prepared, even though we continue to pray and hope that our volcano quickly returns to its previous level of dormancy. All efforts continue to have all our safe area facilities in place should we ever need to repeat the exercise of relocating.

I take this opportunity to offer thanks to the Almighty for helping us through all the challenges of 1995 and into the New Year. Through our months of hurricanes, tropical storms, floods and volcano crisis we have been protected by the Almighty. We also continue to be thankful to the many organisations, the church community and private citizens who have been quite outstanding in providing for the stay-over in the north of fellow residents over the last month and a half.

We now know that our volcano could be with us for months or even years and in keeping with the Government's commitment we will continue with our efforts to keep you, the public, up to date with the situation. The monitoring capability of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory will continue to be bolstered as we endeavour to maintain a 24-hour watch on the Soufriere Hills Volcano.

Thanks to all for your kind support and co-operation up to the present. Please continue to remain vigilant and to offer as much assistance as you can to the community.

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