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Address to the Nation by Chief Minister, the Honourable Bertrand Osborne Montserrat
Thursday, June 27, 1997

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West Indies
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Press Release

My fellow Montserratians, it is with a profound sense of grief and sadness of heart that I speak to you this evening.

This week the lives of all of us were somewhat changed forever by an act of nature. This, when the Soufriere Hills Volcano demonstrated its destructive power in a series of pyroclastic flows and ash surges. A number of loved ones died as a result, but tonight numbers are not important. The life of any one person is invaluable.

On behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat I offer condolences to all of the bereaved families and recognize the need for all of us to come together during this period of deep sorrow. We will inform you within the next few days of our plans for a National Day of Mourning.

The losses we have suffered are not only felt by Montserratians but by the region as a whole. Today my office communicated the deepest sympathy of all of us to the Governments and People of Guyana and Dominica who had citizens among our fatalities. This is a very sad period for Montserrat, something we really did not want to happen. We were hoping that we would have had no loss of human life during this volcanic crisis.

The people of Cork Hill have been asked to leave the comfort of their homes. I wish to express my personal gratitude for your cooperation in this endeavour despite the less comfortable circumstances of life in a shelter. I can assure you however that your move was absolutely necessary and in keeping with our commitment to try and protect the life of each and every resident. Everything has been done in an effort to ensure the best possible arrangements are in place to make you feel as comfortable as the circumstances would allow. As I have said before, this government will continue to work tirelessly with who-ever we must, to provide suitable housing in the designated safe zone of Montserrat.

With the closure of the W H Bramble Airport, we have, with the collaboration of the British Government, activated plans to provide alternative transport to Antigua. We will have details by tomorrow morning Saturday 28 June, but it is likely that a helicopter service between Montserrat and Antigua will start tomorrow and a ferry service also between Montserrat and Antigua will start on Sunday Morning. I understand the anxieties created by the absence of air service over the last few days and particularly for those who have missed connecting flights to other destinations out of Antigua. We also regret the inconvenience to those of you waiting in Antigua to come to Montserrat.

The Government continues to support plans for the development of the northern part of Montserrat as a safe and viable area. We are not activating an off-island evacuation at this time. We believe that once the people of Montserrat continue to work steadfastly together, we can and will make northern Montserrat a place we can be proud of and where our families can live and our friends can continue to visit us.

Tonight both Montserratians at home and abroad worry about their Emerald Isle. It is a worry which can be understood, but our strength of character, our faith, our spiritual foundation, our dedication to duty, our commitment to country and our over-riding belief in God is helping us to push forward. It is at times like these that men and women find opportunity out of adversity.

People of Montserrat, let us focus on the positive things that bind us together as one in the realization that the only place we can truly call home is Montserrat, our own Emerald Isle.

Let me take this opportunity to express sincere thanks on behalf of the people of Montserrat to our own search and rescue teams, and to the hospital and other health and emergency response staff. They have lived up to the high standards of performance expected of Montserratians.

Our sincere gratitude also to the French for sending a helicopter with doctors to Montserrat yesterday and for taking to Guadeloupe and Martinique our injured for specialist medical care. We also thank the Royal Netherlands Navy for the use of one of their helicopters which rendered very valuable assistance in our search and rescue effort. Our sincere thanks to the British Government for its overall support and particularly the indispensable services of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory helicopter pilot and crew and for another which was engaged to join operations from yesterday.

Thank you very much for your continued support as we tonight commit ourselves, again, to putting all hands to the till to ensure the integrity of our island.

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