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Volcano survivor to help rebuild homeland island

Guardian in Waltham Forest By Daniel Binns

Lemarie Lewis

Lemarie Lewis

A man from Leytonstone who fled the Caribbean island of Montserrat when it was hit by a devastating volcanic eruptions in the 1990s is preparing to return to help rebuild his homeland.

Lemarle Lewis, 28, fled the tropical paradise with his family following the disaster in 1995 which killed 19 people and left two thirds of the island uninhabitable.

Now, 18 years later, Mr. Lewis has been training as a plumber with the aim of heading back to help in the repair and rebuilding process.

Mr. Lewis, of Hawbridge Road, told the Guardian: “Montserrat was very badly affected – the economy collapsed and the port was destroyed.

“A lot of the younger, skilled people left and the tourists stopped coming. But the population keeps smiling and getting on with it.”

Mr. Lewis was a schoolboy when the disaster struck.

He said: “My main reaction was ‘wow’. I was very academic and interested in geography, so I knew what was happening. I was excited to be witnessing a big geographical event.

“We left the worrying up to the adults.”

Lewis recalls: “My dad was taking my sister and I to school and we’d just got out of the car when it began.

“It was like the sound of a jumbo jet going right over your head, and the sky turned black. I looked over and saw all this smoke and rocks shooting out of the top.”

His family initially sheltered in their home before staying with relatives in nearby countries, but as the situation got worse in 1996 his family took up the offer from British government to be permanently rehoused.

After stints as a mechanic and forklift truck driver, Lewis is now half-way through a ATL-run  long-distance course in plumbing, and hopes to join members of his family this summer to help fit new pipes on the island.

He is unsure if he will resettle there permanently, but said he was hopefully the island could be revitalised.

He added: “It is a beautiful place. It never used to be on any maps because it was so small, but it was very popular as a holiday destination for the royal family, so we used to think they were trying to keep it secret from everyone else.

“But in the 1990s all that changed. Now I hope the tourism industry can recover and people know the island for more than the volcano.”

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Guardian in Waltham Forest By Daniel Binns

Lemarie Lewis

Lemarie Lewis

A man from Leytonstone who fled the Caribbean island of Montserrat when it was hit by a devastating volcanic eruptions in the 1990s is preparing to return to help rebuild his homeland.

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Lemarle Lewis, 28, fled the tropical paradise with his family following the disaster in 1995 which killed 19 people and left two thirds of the island uninhabitable.

Now, 18 years later, Mr. Lewis has been training as a plumber with the aim of heading back to help in the repair and rebuilding process.

Mr. Lewis, of Hawbridge Road, told the Guardian: “Montserrat was very badly affected – the economy collapsed and the port was destroyed.

“A lot of the younger, skilled people left and the tourists stopped coming. But the population keeps smiling and getting on with it.”

Mr. Lewis was a schoolboy when the disaster struck.

He said: “My main reaction was ‘wow’. I was very academic and interested in geography, so I knew what was happening. I was excited to be witnessing a big geographical event.

“We left the worrying up to the adults.”

Lewis recalls: “My dad was taking my sister and I to school and we’d just got out of the car when it began.

“It was like the sound of a jumbo jet going right over your head, and the sky turned black. I looked over and saw all this smoke and rocks shooting out of the top.”

His family initially sheltered in their home before staying with relatives in nearby countries, but as the situation got worse in 1996 his family took up the offer from British government to be permanently rehoused.

After stints as a mechanic and forklift truck driver, Lewis is now half-way through a ATL-run  long-distance course in plumbing, and hopes to join members of his family this summer to help fit new pipes on the island.

He is unsure if he will resettle there permanently, but said he was hopefully the island could be revitalised.

He added: “It is a beautiful place. It never used to be on any maps because it was so small, but it was very popular as a holiday destination for the royal family, so we used to think they were trying to keep it secret from everyone else.

“But in the 1990s all that changed. Now I hope the tourism industry can recover and people know the island for more than the volcano.”