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It could have been avoided

(See articles of July 4, 1997 following fatalities from Soufriere Hills volcano) Navigate to 1997 – 4th July

By Bennette Roach

Windy Hill and Streatham, Farrells etc.

In every tragic disaster like this, when people die and especially, where elapsed time is involved, certainly questions must be asked, why did it happen? Could it have been avoided? Can it happen again?

Each day the scientists deliver reports that are carefully written and delivered as we understand, after consensus opinion by those concerned. In themselves they are great and in addition, following a great sense of desire and belief that the public should be more informed and educated, the scientists, not too long ago began appearing sometimes twice a day to give MVO updates and answer a question or two from the announcer on duty at ZJB. In addition to this there have been other programs, some call-in and otherwise.

This is what former head scientist Lloyd Lynch had to say quite some while ago, attempting to initiate a more positive information program: “It is a three-way affair, the public, scientists and the managing authorities. They have to work hand in hand. As far as the public is concerned when it is time to take evasive action, the public will find it hard to do, because it involves the initiation of some kind of action that will lead to further hardship.

“So the public has to be motivated in some way to go in the same direction in which you are going. The thing that will provide the motivation is a clearer understanding of what is happening, so we need to provide the information at all times and make sure that it is not ambiguous. Sometimes even the person who is giving the message is important.”

But something was always lacking, although the scientists were always available for interview, attempts to get discussion with them on radio with other interested parties, were always ignored and their desire as well as others to have some television program that would put more clearly into the minds of the public, the relation of the volcano to the rest of the island, the serious dangers of ignoring the scientists’ explanations and warnings, have always been ignored and given very little priority.

Governor Frank Savage had this to say about the matter. “I do share the concern. I do believe that the MVO has got footage which could have made a greater impact on the community.”

Indeed it was pointed out by the Governor, that one could not force people to move away from the danger areas, and so he made references to criticisms, according to him, “for using language, which locally people thought was insensitive, because I was trying to raise the profile of the danger. The Chief Minister did say that he would consider using more than persuasion to move people.”

The Chief Minister on the other hand said: “It is true that education and information of all kinds help. I think the reason why most people went back into their homes or stayed in their homes, is because they themselves had an inward feeling that it would not occur where they were. Not that they were not aware of the danger. They felt it would not happen again, that it would happen somewhere else.

“I am not saying that if there were more pictures, more presentations, it would not have been better, sure more information would be better.”

On Monday, scientist, Dr. Angus Miller answered my question on the education and information issue saying, “Certainly it would be a great advantage if people can see what happened on Wednesday. I think it really hasn’t sunk in to people what happened and how the face of Montserrat has changed. We’ve been expressing for many months in fact, that we would like to have more routes to get information out, to try and persuade people exactly what’s going on with the volcano, and we will support any effort to improve that service.”

Pyroclastic flows down Tar River and out to sea – prior to June 25

All agree, even the Chief Minister, though to a lesser degree, agreed that more could have been done or the effect would have been different if more explicit attempts were made to convince people of the fatal dangers that existed. So how difficult would if have been, since the footage is available, to show some of this to the people with the scientists explaining and pointing things and places out periodically.

Chief Minister Bertrand Osborne debated that he will agree that not enough may have been done, but not that nothing was done. So, What’s the difference? half good is not good enough.

Could it have been that personalities got in the way? One thing it wasn’t for want of funding like some pretended, that had been taken care of. Could it have been bureaucracy, copyrights or just lack of interest. Or is it just another example of ‘don’t tell them everything’, we’ve told them enough. On two other occasions the CM could not, or would not, address the off-island evacuation plan, could not say he would publish it, or where it was, or whether it even existed other than in someone’s head. On the HMS Liverpool, the captain having called a press conference, gave insights from his end of how some things would go.

We know it was not on the part of the scientists, they did everything else. If it couldn’t get going here, who will doubt Antigua’s willingness to contribute.

There is a saying’ ‘seeing is believing’ and it does make a difference, especially when lives are at stake. Until now, it is true that there have always been warnings about the dangers, but except for National Geographic and some other TV shows, done in a way that suits their American audience. I have seen videos simulating what can happen to villages and towns, but these were private showings and although I suggested these be shown to the general public, we have never been fortunate enough. That is shameful.

There were other reasons people chose to ignore warnings, like refusing to go in shelters, but bearing in mind the suggestions made by scientist Lloyd Lynch, warnings were just not enough.

 

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(See articles of July 4, 1997 following fatalities from Soufriere Hills volcano) Navigate to 1997 – 4th July

By Bennette Roach

Windy Hill and Streatham, Farrells etc.

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In every tragic disaster like this, when people die and especially, where elapsed time is involved, certainly questions must be asked, why did it happen? Could it have been avoided? Can it happen again?

Each day the scientists deliver reports that are carefully written and delivered as we understand, after consensus opinion by those concerned. In themselves they are great and in addition, following a great sense of desire and belief that the public should be more informed and educated, the scientists, not too long ago began appearing sometimes twice a day to give MVO updates and answer a question or two from the announcer on duty at ZJB. In addition to this there have been other programs, some call-in and otherwise.

This is what former head scientist Lloyd Lynch had to say quite some while ago, attempting to initiate a more positive information program: “It is a three-way affair, the public, scientists and the managing authorities. They have to work hand in hand. As far as the public is concerned when it is time to take evasive action, the public will find it hard to do, because it involves the initiation of some kind of action that will lead to further hardship.

“So the public has to be motivated in some way to go in the same direction in which you are going. The thing that will provide the motivation is a clearer understanding of what is happening, so we need to provide the information at all times and make sure that it is not ambiguous. Sometimes even the person who is giving the message is important.”

But something was always lacking, although the scientists were always available for interview, attempts to get discussion with them on radio with other interested parties, were always ignored and their desire as well as others to have some television program that would put more clearly into the minds of the public, the relation of the volcano to the rest of the island, the serious dangers of ignoring the scientists’ explanations and warnings, have always been ignored and given very little priority.

Governor Frank Savage had this to say about the matter. “I do share the concern. I do believe that the MVO has got footage which could have made a greater impact on the community.”

Indeed it was pointed out by the Governor, that one could not force people to move away from the danger areas, and so he made references to criticisms, according to him, “for using language, which locally people thought was insensitive, because I was trying to raise the profile of the danger. The Chief Minister did say that he would consider using more than persuasion to move people.”

The Chief Minister on the other hand said: “It is true that education and information of all kinds help. I think the reason why most people went back into their homes or stayed in their homes, is because they themselves had an inward feeling that it would not occur where they were. Not that they were not aware of the danger. They felt it would not happen again, that it would happen somewhere else.

“I am not saying that if there were more pictures, more presentations, it would not have been better, sure more information would be better.”

On Monday, scientist, Dr. Angus Miller answered my question on the education and information issue saying, “Certainly it would be a great advantage if people can see what happened on Wednesday. I think it really hasn’t sunk in to people what happened and how the face of Montserrat has changed. We’ve been expressing for many months in fact, that we would like to have more routes to get information out, to try and persuade people exactly what’s going on with the volcano, and we will support any effort to improve that service.”

Pyroclastic flows down Tar River and out to sea – prior to June 25

All agree, even the Chief Minister, though to a lesser degree, agreed that more could have been done or the effect would have been different if more explicit attempts were made to convince people of the fatal dangers that existed. So how difficult would if have been, since the footage is available, to show some of this to the people with the scientists explaining and pointing things and places out periodically.

Chief Minister Bertrand Osborne debated that he will agree that not enough may have been done, but not that nothing was done. So, What’s the difference? half good is not good enough.

Could it have been that personalities got in the way? One thing it wasn’t for want of funding like some pretended, that had been taken care of. Could it have been bureaucracy, copyrights or just lack of interest. Or is it just another example of ‘don’t tell them everything’, we’ve told them enough. On two other occasions the CM could not, or would not, address the off-island evacuation plan, could not say he would publish it, or where it was, or whether it even existed other than in someone’s head. On the HMS Liverpool, the captain having called a press conference, gave insights from his end of how some things would go.

We know it was not on the part of the scientists, they did everything else. If it couldn’t get going here, who will doubt Antigua’s willingness to contribute.

There is a saying’ ‘seeing is believing’ and it does make a difference, especially when lives are at stake. Until now, it is true that there have always been warnings about the dangers, but except for National Geographic and some other TV shows, done in a way that suits their American audience. I have seen videos simulating what can happen to villages and towns, but these were private showings and although I suggested these be shown to the general public, we have never been fortunate enough. That is shameful.

There were other reasons people chose to ignore warnings, like refusing to go in shelters, but bearing in mind the suggestions made by scientist Lloyd Lynch, warnings were just not enough.