The Government of Montserrat continues to focus attention on a range of issues associated with the response to activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano.
Food supplies remain adequate and is supported on a supply by demand basis by local super-markets and wholesale agents. The Government has recognized that there may not be a sufficient supply of food in stock for a one month period and hopes to replenish supplies as and when required. Old Road Bay, in the designated safe zone area of Old Towne, has been declared a port of entry. The WH Bramble airport remains open. Several non-government organizations are spear-heading efforts to access regional and international assistance. These include Montserrat Red Cross and the local Credit Union. Montserratians overseas have also responded in support of friends and relatives at home.
Chief Minister, the Honourable Reuben T. Meade, describes the impact as presenting immediate and long-term needs of a largely displaced population.
"Clearly food is a critical and immediate need because we need money to buy that. We are also looking at shelters, not only for housing individuals but shelters for business places that must be relocated on a longer-term basis. Fuel supplies, things that cost money, these are things which are required. There are farmers who can no longer farm, so therefore they have no income. There are business people who are not making sales and there are people who are unemployed. So clearly we need to provide a lot more in terms of sustenance for the majority of the people on the island even those who have themselves not relocated. Most people are in the designated safe zone but they are unemployed."
The Government of Montserrat has been in contact with member states of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, through the Secretary General. CARICOM is expected to be a focal point for tapping assistance from the international donor community. Several regional territories including the French department of Guadeloupe and Martinique, have offered assistance to Montserrat. The Chief Minister says every effort is being made "to co-ordinate the offers of assistance so that we don't have people tripping over themselves and possibly giving you more of what is needed than what is critically needed."
The Chief Minister summarizes the response to volcanic activity on Montserrat saying:
"With a volcanic situation such as this, we now have to look at life and livelihood and creating a balance between the two. And currently we're looking at life. In terms of the economic situation, clearly the economy would have been significantly damaged and significant here means very significant, in terms of the damage. And there will be significant rebuilding required in the future whether we go back into town or we are going to be doing whatever we're doing in the north of the island, that rebuilding process must take place."
Government has commissioned a private-sector grouping to appraise it of private-sector and general business development initiatives as a response to the relocation. The group is expected to present a report shortly. Activity at the island's Soufriere Hills Volcano has forced the third relocation within nine months of the island's capital and five thousand (5,000) residents from designated unsafe areas.
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