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Jamaica Observer

Crime, high youth unemployment said hampering economic growth in Caribbean

Jamaica Observer
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Police at a crime scene in Jamaica. An IMF blog says violent crime in the Caribbean is significantly higher than in any other region, with 6.8 per cent of the population affected versus a world average of 4.5 per cent.

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — Economic growth in the Caribbean is being hampered by high unemployment among young people regarded as the highest in the world, and crime, according to IMFBlog , a forum for the views of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff and officials on pressing economic and policy issues.

In its “Chart of the Week”, the IMFBlog noted that the 2008 global financial crisis had an especially strong effect on the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 24, which jumped on average by five percentage points between 2007 and 2013, from 21 per cent to 26 per cent.

“In some countries, for example, the Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica, youth unemployment rates are nearly three times that of those aged 30 and over.”

The IMFBlog noted that the difficult job market has led to an increase in crime in many of the islands.

“In several Caribbean countries, crime has risen sharply since 2004 and murder rates are now among the highest in the world.

“More specifically, violent crime in the Caribbean is significantly higher than in any other region, with 6.8 per cent of the population affected versus a world average of 4.5 per cent, according to a recent IMF book, Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean,” the IMFBlog added.

It said that about 40 per cent of the Caribbean population identifies crime and security-related issues as the biggest problem facing their countries, even more than pov­erty or inequality.

According to the 2012 United Nations Caribbean Human Development Report, young people are both the primary victims and perpetrators of crime in the region.

Victims of violent crime are mainly between the ages of 18 to 30 and from lower levels of income, while 80 per cent of prosecuted crimes were committed by people aged 17 to 29 years.

The IMFBlog argued, too, that efforts to fight crime will require an integrated solution.

“Balancing crime-suppression programmes with prevention — including youth vocational training that increases job opportunities in the formal sector and keeps youth off the street, targeting interventions in high-crime areas, and developing indicators to more accurately monitor the effectiveness of anti-crime programmes can deliver good results.”

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Three Sheets Northwest

PNW sailors rescued after capsize in Caribbean 600 race

Three Sheets Northwest
Just after 8 p.m. on February 19th, the Paul Bieker-designed catamaran Fujin, which hails from Seattle and had an experienced local crew aboard, capsized near the island of Saba during the RORC Caribbean 600 race. All eight crewmembers have been rescued and are safe.

Here’s an interview with Fujin owner Greg Slyngstad courtesy of Louay Habib:

This is a developing story and Three Sheets will provide updates on the incident when they become available.

Here’s a quick summary from the RORC Caribbean 600:

Greg Slyngstad’s American Bieker 53 multihull Fujin has capsized during the RORC Caribbean 600. All eight crew are safe.

Stephen Cucchiaro’s Gunboat 60 Flow stood by until Dutch/ French authorities organized a rescue vessel. Preparations are now underway to transfer all crew to the safety of Port Saba.

RORC Race Manager Chris Stone issued a statement on behalf of the race organisers, The Royal Ocean Racing Club:

“On Monday 19th February at 20:20 AST, Fujin capsized close to Saba Island and the eight-man crew were observed standing on the up-turned hull. All of the crew are now safe. Stephen Cucchiaro’s Gunboat 60 Flow stood by while rescue agencies co-ordinated the rescue efforts.
Jens Kellinhusen’s German Ker 56 Varuna altered course to assist, but has now continued racing. The Coastguard at Fort De France Martinique has been co-ordinating the rescue.”

The highly experienced crew on Fujin from Seattle, Washington, USA include the skipper Greg Slyngstad, the boat’s designer, Paul Bieker and Olympic Gold medallist Jonathan McKee.

Fujin’s Crew: Greg Slyngstad, Bradley Baker, Peter F Johnston, Paul Bieker, Gina Borza, Fritz Lanzinger, Michael Leslie, Jonathan McKee.

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“Sad day for Bermuda” says couple who fought for same-sex marriage

“Sad day for Bermuda” says couple who fought for same-sex marriage


HAMILTON, Bermuda, Feb 8, CMC  –  A gay couple whose landmark Supreme Court victory last year paved the way for same-sex marriages in the island have spoken of their “sadness” after Governor John Rankin signalled the end of such unions,  that will be replaced by civil partnerships.

The end for same-sex marriages in this British Overseas Territory and aboard Bermuda-registered cruise ships came when Rankin gave the royal assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 on Wednesday.

Rankin signed the legislation 61 days after it was passed in the House of Assembly and 56 days in the wake of its approval by the Senate.

Rankin said he signed the new act into law “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the constitution”.

The move ended weeks of speculation over whether Britain would allow the legislation, and dashed the hopes of activists in Bermuda and overseas who had asked Rankin to reject the new law.

It follows a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda.

The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island, and the first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry-General’s office less than a month later.

The judgment was the result of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple, Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, against the Registrar-General’s decision to refuse to post their wedding banns. The pair eventually wed in Canada but at least eight other gay couples were married on the island, according to British opposition Labour Party MP Chris Bryant.

Godwin said he and his partner were “deeply saddened” by the Governor’s decision.

“It’s a sad day for Bermuda. It’s a sad day for human rights.

The Governor was placed between a rock and a hard place with this poorly planned and rushed bill,” Godwin said.

But he told the island’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community: “While Greg and I were the face of this case, we represented every single one of you and helped to give a voice to those that didn’t have one.

“Because of you, we were able to make a difference in the lives of eight couples and that’s something that shouldn’t be understated or forgotten.

“You are all loved and are worthy of love.”

Lawyer Mark Pettingill, a former Attiorney-General, said the battle for the return of same-sex marriage in Bermuda could end up in Europe’s highest courts.

Pettingill said the royal assent meant that any further legal action would need to be heard in higher courts.

Pettingill, who fought the May 2017 Supreme Court case that paved the way for same-sex marriage, added: “This is now something that would necessarily invite consideration beyond our shores. There is potential for a challenge going all the way to the European courts.”

He added: “I take the view, as do a number of other lawyers, that there is a case to be heard on the basis of the rights enshrined in our constitution.

“The question becomes, are there any relevant parties that are prepared to take up that fight?”

Pettingill said: “I feel that potential is there. Unfortunately, there are the risks of losing, which would probably incur substantial legal costs.

“These things are not cheap to run. Anybody who decided to take up that challenge as a litigant would have to think very carefully about the possibility that they could lose, and the risks involved.”

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation in the House last November, said the act represented “a compromise piece of legislation which does not bring any high level of satisfaction to any side” in the island’s long-running row over same-sex marriage.

Speaking from London, Brown said the provisions of the act were “the only position that could be taken at this point”.

“This difficult piece of legislation was developed in such a way as to ensure that it fully complies with our constitution.Clearly anyone has the right to challenge anything they want, but it must be a challenge with merit,” Brown noted.

Same-sex marriage and civil unions were voted on in a non-binding referendum in June 2016.

The referendum failed to attract the 50 per cent minimum of registered voters needed to rule that questions were “answered”.

But those who did vote rejected both same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of more than two to one.

Brown said on Wednesday night the referendum showed that the majority of Bermudians did not support same-sex marriage.

But the Governor’s decision attracted fast condemnation from overseas.

Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who called for the House of Commons debate in London last month, said on Wednesday night: “This totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights.”

Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said during the Commons debate that Britain was “disappointed” by Bermuda’s decision to reverse marriage equality.

Ty Cobb, director at Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Global, called the move a “deplorable action”.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of New York’s Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, added: “LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news.

“Love can never be rolled back.”

Clare O’Connor, a Bermudian journalist working overseas, promised to do her to best to damage the island as a tourist destination.

“I will be encouraging my LGBTQ friends to spend their money elsewhere,” she said.

“This is despicable and I hope the (ruling) Progressive Labour Party and Governor understand the damage they’ve done.”

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Caribbean hits 30 million mark in stay over visitors

Caribbean hits 30 million mark in stay over visitors


 Barbados, Feb. 15, CMC – The Caribbean set a record with 30 million in stay over arrivals for the first time in 2017, even as the region battled the effects of catastrophic hurricanes.

The figures were released on Thursday 15th by the Barbados based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

According to the CTO’s acting director of research,  Ryan Skeete,  the visitors contributed US$37 billion to Caribbean economies during the 12-month period, up 2.6 per cent over 2016.

The tourism researcher explained that stay-over arrivals were on track for a strong performance during the first-half of 2017, growing by an estimated 4.8 per cent, but growth was curtailed in the second half of the year by the storms, which were largely responsible for a1.7 per cent drop between July and December.

“These outcomes resulted in an overall increase of 1.7 per cent in 2017, making it the eighth consecutive year of growth, albeit slower than the average global growth rate of 6.7 per cent.

The CTO official explained that strong economic performance in the main markets helped spur the region’s performance, with some destinations recording strong double-digit growth, although the hurricane-affected countries were down between seven per cent and 18 per cent.

The United States continued to be the primary market, growing by about 0.5 per cent to reach an estimated 14.9 million visits to the region due mainly to solid economic growth, low unemployment and high consumer confidence; while the Canadian market rebounded strongly, recording a 4.3 per cent increase in arrivals, compared to a decline of 3.1 per cent in 2016.

However, it was the European market that recorded the strongest growth rate, increasing by 6.2 per cent to 5.8 million visitors, with the United Kingdom up by 2.9 per cent to 1.3 million.

The increase in arrivals was not reflected in hotel occupancy, which fell by 1.2 per cent, according to STR (formerly Smith Travel Research), a U.S. company that tracks supply and demand data for the hotel industry. However, both average daily rate and revenue per available room recorded increases, though slightly.

“Notably, the hotel performance indicators excluded most of the hurricane-impacted destinations at this time, due to the disruption in operations caused by the hurricanes,” Skeete said.

The cruise sector also set a new high of 27 million passengers, 2.4 per cent higher than 2016, despite the hurricanes.

“The cruise passenger performance mirrors the performance of tourist arrivals, as it grew strongly by 4.6 per cent in the first half of 2017, but contracted marginally  – by 0.4 per cent – in the second half of the year. Indeed, cruise passenger arrivals fell dramatically in September by some 20 per cent. However, growth resumed in October, which saw a two per cent increase,” the CTO official said.

The CTO said the economic conditions are expected to be favourable for further growth in 2018, therefore it predicts growth of two to three per cent in both stay-over and cruise arrivals.

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Improvements in economic prospects for Caribbean/Latin America – IMF

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, CMC – The International Monetary Fund (IMF), says economic prospects for the region are generally improving and modest growth is expected in 2018 and 2019.

The IMF, in its Regional Economic Outlook Update for Latin America and the Caribbean, released on Thursday, said the positive outlook is supported by growth in the United States following the recent U.S. tax reform.

IMFFHowever, the international lending agency noted that some of the islands that were hit hard during the 2017 hurricane season face a protracted recovery.

One such country is Dominica.

“In Dominica,  gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to decline by 16 percent in 2018, before rebounding in 2019 as reconstruction gathers pace.”

The IMF also noted that overall, recent trends in the world economy and financial markets are good news for  the Caribbean and Latin America.

“Global growth and trade are on an upswing, and we expect the momentum to continue in 2018.  Stronger commodity prices have also helped the region rebound.”

The report said consumption and exports were the main growth drivers last year and the recovery is broad based across the region.

“Encouragingly, investment is no longer a drag, and is expected to be an important factor behind the acceleration in output this year and next. Inflation came down significantly in 2017 in many countries, providing some scope for easing monetary policy.”

The Washington based lending agency said that while Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean are benefitting from stronger growth in the United States, growth in South America is mainly driven by the end of recessions in Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador, as well as higher commodity prices.

It said that in the United States, reforms to U.S. corporate and personal income taxes passed in December 2017 will likely raise private investment and private consumption over the short term

The report also revealed that in Central America and the Dominican Republic, output growth remains robust, helped by stronger than anticipated remittances flows, improved financial conditions, and good harvests.

However it was also stated that some risks could hurt the region’s recovery – including upcoming elections in some countries  – an event that could cfreate economic and policy uncertainties in the next year.

“Pressures for inward-looking policies in advanced economies—including through a retreat from cross-border integration—and factors such as global geopolitical tensions and extreme weather events could compound these uncertainties.”

The IMF said  in looking beyond the near term, the region also faces serious medium-term challenges.

“As we have been emphasizing, despite the current economic acceleration, Latin America’s output growth is returning to an underwhelming mean. Subdued potential growth and downside medium-term risks call for further efforts to rebuild buffers and implement structural policies to address growth bottlenecks and improve resilience.”

The lending institution said countries that need to lower  fiscal deficits should give attention to the fine balance between preserving inclusive growth and stabilizing high public debt, which has been rising.

“To better withstand future shocks, maintaining exchange rate flexibility, and further improving central bank communication and transparency would increase the resilience and effectiveness of monetary policy,” the IMF stated.


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Dr. Clarice Barnes

A Peach of a time! Montserrat Women’s Festival 2018

Dr. Clarice Barnes

    By Dr. Vernie Clarice Barnes

 January 7th 2018, one day beyond the last day of Christmas, the festivities are over but not quite so for the women who joined Brenda Perkins (Peaches) in an exclusively women last lap at the Good Life Night Club.  Approximately one hundred and fifty (150) elegantly dressed women of all ages   spent time relaxing, playing games, discussing, eating and drinking the best.  This “Women’s  Festival” has been happening for eight years and is the brainchild of Peaches who recognised that women needed this retreat after working hard to make Christmas and the Festival enjoyable for their families and the community. Coincidentally, a similar activity (Women’s Christmas) is held in Ireland around this time. It began in rural communities but has now spread to the cities, USA and the UK where Irish people have settled. It is gaining popularity as a well deserved bonus for women.

I attended the “Women’s Festival” for the first time this year and found it to be impressive.  I was particularly impressed by the discussion of Women’s views of Montserrat Culture, Christmas and the Festival. Mrs. Cynthia Dyett did an excellent job of facilitating wide participation.  Women spoke passionately on issues of the meaning of Festival, participation, cultural transfer and women’s role in processes that will ensure the sustainability of the Montserrat culture and Festival. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Festivals might consider adding the “Women’s Festival” in his growing list of Montserrat festivities that he perceives to be of importance to development.  I hasten to suggest that a summary of the issues discussed might prove useful to the Festival Committee.

The Honourable Minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs, Mrs. Delmaude Ryan was in the gathering. She spoke of the need for Diasporic Montserratians to join hands with locals to improve participation in Festival.  This is a significant call given that most participants in adult troupes and bands are women. Montserrat is not known for active women’s groups comparative to the activism found elsewhere in the Region.  It has no visible Women’s Desk, No National Organisation of Women; indeed no national machinery for promoting women’s affairs outside of the Social Services. Montserrat stands alone in the region in this regard. I know that we gathered as women for food, relaxation and fun but from the time the gathering chose to enter into a discussion of a current issue serious business relating to women and Montserrat had to emerge.  This event is clearly a great rallying ground for women. 

Applauds are due Peaches and her team which includes Mrs Petronella Browne and Miss Maureen Phillips for sensitively facilitating a successful Peach of a time.

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Tourist arrivals

Bartlett says tourist harrasment remains a “vexing issue”

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jan. 15, CMC – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says visitor harassment must be curtailed in order to safeguard the gains and surpass the industry’s progress acheived last year.

Bartlett who was speaking at a function in the western city of Montego Bay on the weekend, said visitor harassment remains an issue for the tourism sector.

Tourist arrivals“We made history in Jamaica when we welcomed 4.3 million visitors to the island (in 2017). The sector (also generated) approximately US$3 billion in earnings, representing an 11.2 per cent increase (over 2016).

“We cannot afford to reverse the gains we have made and continue to make. This is why it is so important to curb the vexing issue of visitor harassment so that our thriving tourism sector can experience further expansion,” the minister said.

He pointed out that the industry, having soared to levels “beyond our wildest imagination” in 2017, must be “protected at all costs”.

Bartlett said despite challenges with visitor harassment, recent surveys indicate that up to 60 per cent of tourists are “very satisfied” with the Jamaican experience, with 42 per cent being repeat visitors.

“Our intention is for those numbers to be higher…so we have no room for complacency. The visit should resonate so well with those who land on our soil that they will unhesitatingly give us an A plus rating consistently,” he emphasised.

Bartlett said, in this regard, industry stakeholders have a pivotal role to play in safeguarding the sector, adding that “we have to be very firm in our pledge to decrease incidents of harassment and, over time, see to its elimination”.

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Donald Trump

Caribbean Pan-African leaders declare Trump ‘persona non-grata’

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jan. 15, CMC – About 90 Pan-African organizations and leaders in the Caribbean have declared United States President Donald J. Trump “persona non-grata” for reported racist remarks he made last week about Haiti and African nations.

The leaders said that Trump made himself unwelcome with his vulgar insults against Haiti and African countries, saying that they likely speak for the entire African Diaspora.

Donald TrumpThe declaration was authored on Saturday by the “pan-Africanist and socialist popular forces of Barbados,” and submitted to the people and civil society organizations of the Caribbean for their endorsement and adoption.

Among the organizations and leaders supporting and endorsing the declaration are: the Clement Payne Movement of Barbados; Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration (CMPI); Caribbean Pan-African Network (CPAN); Peoples Empowerment Party (Barbados); Pan-African Federalist Movement – Caribbean Region Committee; International Committee of Black Peoples (Guadeloupe); Jamaica-Cuba Friendship Association; Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago; Organization for the Victory of the People (Guyana); Black Consciousness Movement of Guyana; and the International Movement for Reparations (Martinique).

“We, the under-signed representatives of the sovereign people of the Caribbean, hereby declare that President Donald Trump of the United States of America is ‘persona non-grata’ in our Caribbean region,” the declaration said.

“We further declare that as a ‘persona non-grata,’ President Donald Trump is NOT welcome in any territory of the Caribbean; and we hereby confirm that we – the Caribbean people – will petition our governments, vehemently protest against any Trump visit, and engage in popular demonstrations designed to prevent President Donald Trump’s entry into any portion of the sovereign territory of our Caribbean region,” it adds.

“As sons and daughters of the Caribbean, we hereby affirm that the continent of Africa is the revered motherland of a sizable majority of our people and that the Republic of Haiti – the seminal architect of the destruction of the system of chattel slavery that held our ancestors in bondage – is the foundational cornerstone of our Caribbean civilization,” the declaration continues. “And we, therefore, consider that any insult or attack that is directed at the African continent or at the Republic of Haiti is intrinsically an insult and attack that is directed at us as well.

“We further affirm that we Caribbean people – in light of our history of experiencing, resisting and surviving the most horrendous forms of enslavement and colonialism – consciously regard ourselves as champions and defenders of the dignity and fundamental human rights of all Black or African people, and that we are guided by an over-arching and non-negotiable principle of zero tolerance of any manifestation of anti-Black or anti-African racism or discrimination,” it says.

Pan-Africanist David Comissiong (speaking)
Pan-Africanist David Comissiong (speaking)

It is against this background that the declaration says: “we, the sovereign people of the Caribbean, have determined that by describing the nations of Africa, the Republic of Haiti and the Central American nation of El Salvador as ‘shithole’ countries, US President Donald Trump has committed a despicable and unpardonable act of anti-Black, anti-African, anti-Brown racism that has served to further energize and fortify the vile White supremacy system that the said President Trump has self-consciously sought to champion and lead.”

The declaration says that: “We, the sovereign people of the Caribbean, hereby declare to the entire world that we vehemently and unreservedly denounce President Donald Trump and the evil and inhuman White supremacy value system that he represents.”

After three days of denunciations from around the world, including many in the Caribbean and the Caribbean Diaspora, Trump declared on Sunday that he is “not a racist,” even as the uproar over his vulgar remarks on immigration overshadowed critical issues facing the US, including efforts to protect young undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants and avert a government shutdown.

“I’m not a racist,” said Trump late Sunday as he arrived at Trump International Golf Club in Florida for dinner with California Republic Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, who attended the meeting on Thursday at the White House, where Trump reportedly made the disparaging remarks about Haiti and African nations.

“I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you,” Trump told reporters.

The remarks represent Trump’s first direct response to accusations of racism that have dogged him since he allegedly asked “Why are we having all these people from shit hole countries come here?” in the meeting on immigration on Thursday, referring to Haiti and African nations.

Trump reportedly queried why Washington does not instead welcome more immigrants from countries such as Norway, which is overwhelmingly White.

But while Trump has denied using the vulgar language, the lone Democratic senator at the meeting insisted that he did.

Trump’s latest comments were a departure from the White House’s initial statement last week, which did not deny the comments.

The alleged remarks brought down furious condemnation on Trump from Democrats and media talking heads.

Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the United States on Friday told CNN  –  “We know he’s a racist; he’s demonstrated that. He’s a racist both in his actions and his words.”

Johnson said the issue will help to motivate African-American voters in the 2018 mid-term elections.

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CARICOM condemns reported comments by US President regarding Haiti

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jan. 13, CMC – The 15 member regional grouping, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of derogatory and repulsive language by the President of the United States in respect to the French speaking CARICM nation of Haiti, and other developing countries.
CARICOMIn a statement on Saturday, CARICOM said it “condemns in the strongest terms, the unenlightened views reportedly expressed”.
The regional body also pointed to what it says is a “pattern of denigrating Haiti and its citizens in what seems to be a concerted attempt to perpetuate a negative narrative of the country. We are especially saddened that such narrative emerged around the time of the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake which took so many lives of citizens in that country.”

“The Caribbean Community expresses its full support for the dignified statement of the Government of the Republic of Haiti in reaction to this highly offensive reference.”
According to CARICOM it should be recalled that Haiti is the second democracy in the Western Hemisphere after the United States and that Haitians continue to contribute significantly in many spheres to the global community and particularly to the United States of America.

“CARICOM therefore views this insult to the character of the countries named and their citizens as totally unacceptable,” the statement noted.

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Mudslides being monitored in Martinique

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, Jan. 11, CMC – The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has sought to clarify reports circulating on social media, of volcanic activity taking place on the island.

SLIDE5In a statement on Thursday, NEMO said  images being circulated  are not pyroclastic flows, but rather rapid flowing volcanic mudslide of rock debris and water known as “lahar” which occurred in the river Prêcheur  – in the northern end of the island earlier this week.

According to NEMO, the mud flows are due to recent heavy rains on the island.

The river Prêcheur is located between Mount Pelée and the extinct Mont Conil volcanoes.

“The island has experienced occurrences of lahar in previous years; and a more recent occurrence was on June 19, 2010 where twenty houses near the Prêcheur river had been impacted without causing loss of life,” NEMO said.

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter made up of high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas. They move at very high speed down volcanic slopes, typically following valleys.

NEMO  says the Volcanic and Seismological Observatory of Martinique has established an active intelligence unit that will continue to monitor the development of the phenomenon .

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