Government Information Service / Media Centre

Emergency Management Officials Continue to Update
Response Mechanism in the Aftermath of Major Volcanic Activity
Thursday, June 27, 1997

Government Information Service
Chief Minister's Office
Old Towne, Montserrat
West Indies
Tel: (664) 491-2702 Fax: -2711

Press Release

Nine persons have been confirmed dead, five injured and fourteen listed as missing following the pyroclastic flows on Wednesday 25th June 1997 which affected the villages in the East and central corridor of Montserrat.

According to emergency management officials, six bodies were recovered by helicopter from the Streatham and Windy Hill area. The names of the persons will not be released until the next-of-kin have been notified.

Four of the five persons who sustained burn injuries have been airlifted to Guadeloupe for medical treatment, while the other have been taken by helicopter to the specialist burn unit at a hospital in Martinique on Friday 27 June. A further eleven persons were rescued today bringing to over thirty the number of persons airlifted to safety between the 26th and 27th June. Search and rescue operations will continue today to attempt to locate and rescue any person still missing.

The island's W.H.Bramble Airport remains closed while Port services and operations at Montserrat Rice Mills have been suspended until further notice. Scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) are reviewing the island's volcano hazard map taking into consideration the possibility of pyroclastic flows travelling further down the flanks of the volcano.

Over 100 residents of the Cork Hill and Weekes' areas last night ( Thursday 26th June ) opted to move into shelter facilities at the Brades' Primary School in north Montserrat following advise from emergency management officials. Residents who chose to remain at home were advised to move to higher ground to avoid possible pyroclastic flows down the Belham River Valley. Many others moved into private homes with friends and relatives in the designated safe zone. There are some 1500 residents in the Cork Hill/Weekes area which lies just south of the Belham River Valley which is the landmark which demarcates the designated safe and unsafe zones on Montserrat.

Chief Minister, the Honorable Bertrand Osborne yesterday briefed the press on his governments commitment to doing all it could to "provide proper housing in the designated safe zone and improve conditions in the shelters."

His Excellency, the Governor Frank Savage has told local and international journalists that "an evacuation of the island is not likely at this time." He however confirms the existence of contingency plans for an off-island evacuation if that should become necessary.

Scientist at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) say that the designated safe zone remains safe from any major impact as a result of activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano.

In the meantime, plans have been activated for the commencement of a ferry service from an emergency jetty in Little Bay, Montserrat to Antigua. The jetty was commissioned on Thursday 26th June1997. Officials are also giving consideration to the use of a commercial helicopter between Montserrat and neighbouring Antigua to alleviate the disruption caused by the closure of the airport and the consequent suspension of regular flights by the Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT) to Montserrat.

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