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As we remembered June 25, 1997

Posted on 19 June 2015.

Montserrat volcanic event 1997

by Bennette Roach

Last year I wrote the following. This year the intention was no different, but circumstances including non-publication of the weekly newspaper including the lack of financial resources to do so, traveling on the weekend, as well as the Brexit event/s.

I had made a conscious effort this year, not to forget that fateful day or to revive it into the memories of Montserrat.

Montserat 1997A Jus Wonderin from September last year even after nothing was said or done in June, said: “Jus wonderin if HMG dispenses aid based on the risk-of-embarrassment model, only rushing to partially fulfil the least-costly one from amongst their raft of strategically delayed promises when faced with shame, like when the 19 people died on June 25, 1997.

There was a rush, but not to answer the calls following the inquiry into the cause and reasons for the deaths. I now point finger at our GoM and especially our premier the hon. Donaldson Romeo, who has more first-hand information as to what I speak about the reasons occasioning the deaths of these people, the evidence taken at the enquiry notwithstanding.

I had hoped ever since that one day I would be in a position to lead through some local attorney some redress and/or compensation for these deaths. Well, now Mr. Premier the ball is in your court. Nice words…

I repeat from last week: So people died, and later even to this day there are the unpleasant reasons why that happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons, some of them especially those in the Farrells vicinity, not hearing cautions that day of the risks.

Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them.

On that day following a dome collapse of the crater at the Soufriere Hills Volcano. in 25 minutes, a series of devastating flows swept the northern flanks of the volcano, down Mosquito Ghaut and followed the Paradise River almost to the sea. The flows and associated surge clouds damaged or destroyed between 100 to 150 houses, sweeping over the villages of Farrells, Windy Hill, Streatham, Dyers, Harris, Bethel, Bramble, Trants, Farms and Spanish Point being severely affected.

On Thursday June 25, 2015, last week at 12:55 p.m., the hour of the explosion and pyroclastic flows as shown in the photo here, the church bells on island rang 20 times, 19 times for each person who died and once for unknown persons who may have died. I did not hear these bells as this newspaper would have had to listen to the radio to get the information of these plans.

The public was asked to observe a moment of silence for those who were lost that day and ZJB Radio Montserrat was to carry an observance ceremony.

That was last year. And now to recapture the day once again and remind our people just as we prepare to observe the commencement of the volcanic activity on July 18, 1995, 21 years ago.

By Bennette Roach

I remember where I was and what I was doing on that day, the hour, the moment. In fact I was attending the Rotary weekly meeting at the Vue Pointe Hotel, where Lloyd Lynch, one of the lead scientist was the guest speaker, updating Rotarians on the volcanic activity. He received a telephone call that told him to look up at Soufriere Hills. We all rushed out to the Vue Pointe Hotel swimming pool patio and saw the avalanche of ash cloud and pyroclastic flows descending across Farrells to Windy Hill etc.

I was totally dumbfounded almost in shock. It was just after midday. I was to sit with the Scottish scientist and others at Radio Montserrat at six o’clock that day, planned since a week before, following a helicopter trip over the volcano, where we were shown that pyroclastic flow had already begun to creep over the Farrells wall. Unfortunately that discussion did not take place for reasons that continue to plague Montserrat. The result people died which may not have been the case, had the scientist been able to explain the dangers over and above those they had already been providing.

So people died, and later even to this day there are the reasons why it happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons.

Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them.

In London, the Foreign Office promptly disclaimed any responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government in the deaths. In a statement reported by the BBC, it said, “On May 23, the farmers were told to stop farming in the area nearest the volcano. It is inconceivable that they were not aware of the dangers.”

Let us remember these people. Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the crisis began, the question must be how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.

  • Alwin Allen, 44, a livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Winston Allen, 41, chauffeur and livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Benjamin / Joseph Brown, 71, a farmer, died in the central area of Montserrat.
  • Felina Celestine, 45, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Melville Cuffy, 39, a farm worker, died in Farrells.
  • Beryl Grant, 73, farmer and huckster, died in Harris.
  • Edith Greenaway, 69, resident, died at her home in Streathams.
  • Joseph Greenaway, 62, resident, died at his home in Windy Hill.
  • Mary Bernardine Harris, 44, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Alicia Joseph, 23, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Allister Joseph, 3-months, died with his mother in Farms.
  • Isolyn Lewis, 43, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Chana Rueben Boatswaine/Horrance Murraine, 66, airport worker, died in Farms.
  • Keithley Ponde, 32, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Hezekiah Riley, age unknown, described as mentally unstable, died at his home in Streathams.
  • Phillip Robinson, 66, a farmer, died in Streathams.
  • Anthony Sutton, 72, resident, died at his home in Farms.
  • Virginia Sutton, 70, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Joseph / Simon Tuitt / White, 45, airport worker, died in Farms.

Above are the names of those who perished in that tragic and fateful volcanic extra-ordinary event of June 25, 1997. Theirs were lives lost that need not to have happened when and how they did. As we remember them and the day, we need also to remember the many others who have since died slowly, while not directly from an event, but from other events over the entire crisis. There are others who suffered and others who continue to suffer and some who have indeed died, only because circumstances were slow in being corrected or attended to at all.

This was said almost 17 years ago. “Others may die slower deaths, but it is up to us who must do something about it, if it is only by breaking a silence and deliberating and strategizing ways to deal with these problems.” This remains valid today.

One Response to “As we remembered June 25, 1997”

  1. Karina Josiah says:

    Hi i am the second daughter of alicia joseph i would like to know what to do about getting compensation and help from u all since my mother was killed there in 1997

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Posted on 19 June 2015.

Montserrat volcanic event 1997

by Bennette Roach

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Last year I wrote the following. This year the intention was no different, but circumstances including non-publication of the weekly newspaper including the lack of financial resources to do so, traveling on the weekend, as well as the Brexit event/s.

I had made a conscious effort this year, not to forget that fateful day or to revive it into the memories of Montserrat.

Montserat 1997A Jus Wonderin from September last year even after nothing was said or done in June, said: “Jus wonderin if HMG dispenses aid based on the risk-of-embarrassment model, only rushing to partially fulfil the least-costly one from amongst their raft of strategically delayed promises when faced with shame, like when the 19 people died on June 25, 1997.

There was a rush, but not to answer the calls following the inquiry into the cause and reasons for the deaths. I now point finger at our GoM and especially our premier the hon. Donaldson Romeo, who has more first-hand information as to what I speak about the reasons occasioning the deaths of these people, the evidence taken at the enquiry notwithstanding.

I had hoped ever since that one day I would be in a position to lead through some local attorney some redress and/or compensation for these deaths. Well, now Mr. Premier the ball is in your court. Nice words…

I repeat from last week: So people died, and later even to this day there are the unpleasant reasons why that happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons, some of them especially those in the Farrells vicinity, not hearing cautions that day of the risks.

Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them.

On that day following a dome collapse of the crater at the Soufriere Hills Volcano. in 25 minutes, a series of devastating flows swept the northern flanks of the volcano, down Mosquito Ghaut and followed the Paradise River almost to the sea. The flows and associated surge clouds damaged or destroyed between 100 to 150 houses, sweeping over the villages of Farrells, Windy Hill, Streatham, Dyers, Harris, Bethel, Bramble, Trants, Farms and Spanish Point being severely affected.

On Thursday June 25, 2015, last week at 12:55 p.m., the hour of the explosion and pyroclastic flows as shown in the photo here, the church bells on island rang 20 times, 19 times for each person who died and once for unknown persons who may have died. I did not hear these bells as this newspaper would have had to listen to the radio to get the information of these plans.

The public was asked to observe a moment of silence for those who were lost that day and ZJB Radio Montserrat was to carry an observance ceremony.

That was last year. And now to recapture the day once again and remind our people just as we prepare to observe the commencement of the volcanic activity on July 18, 1995, 21 years ago.

By Bennette Roach

I remember where I was and what I was doing on that day, the hour, the moment. In fact I was attending the Rotary weekly meeting at the Vue Pointe Hotel, where Lloyd Lynch, one of the lead scientist was the guest speaker, updating Rotarians on the volcanic activity. He received a telephone call that told him to look up at Soufriere Hills. We all rushed out to the Vue Pointe Hotel swimming pool patio and saw the avalanche of ash cloud and pyroclastic flows descending across Farrells to Windy Hill etc.

I was totally dumbfounded almost in shock. It was just after midday. I was to sit with the Scottish scientist and others at Radio Montserrat at six o’clock that day, planned since a week before, following a helicopter trip over the volcano, where we were shown that pyroclastic flow had already begun to creep over the Farrells wall. Unfortunately that discussion did not take place for reasons that continue to plague Montserrat. The result people died which may not have been the case, had the scientist been able to explain the dangers over and above those they had already been providing.

So people died, and later even to this day there are the reasons why it happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons.

Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them.

In London, the Foreign Office promptly disclaimed any responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government in the deaths. In a statement reported by the BBC, it said, “On May 23, the farmers were told to stop farming in the area nearest the volcano. It is inconceivable that they were not aware of the dangers.”

Let us remember these people. Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the crisis began, the question must be how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.

Above are the names of those who perished in that tragic and fateful volcanic extra-ordinary event of June 25, 1997. Theirs were lives lost that need not to have happened when and how they did. As we remember them and the day, we need also to remember the many others who have since died slowly, while not directly from an event, but from other events over the entire crisis. There are others who suffered and others who continue to suffer and some who have indeed died, only because circumstances were slow in being corrected or attended to at all.

This was said almost 17 years ago. “Others may die slower deaths, but it is up to us who must do something about it, if it is only by breaking a silence and deliberating and strategizing ways to deal with these problems.” This remains valid today.