Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo took to the airwaves recently to express his government’s position on the passing of Hurricane Irma. Romeo expressed thankfulness that Montserrat was speared and said of great concern is the poor housing stock, continued access issues and the limitations of no fibre optic cable.
His full statement follows:
“Members of the Government felt it appropriate on its third anniversary of being in office rather than highlighting its achievements, to give thanks to God for his saving grace in protecting our Island from two catastrophic storms over the past week, and to dedicate September 11th 2017, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving.
“As we look across to our neighbours who have taken terrible blows from Hurricane IRMA, we empathize, remembering how God took us through Hugo in 1989, and how he has continued to keep us throughout a 22-year-old and the still ongoing volcano crisis. We therefore give thanks and praise to God for being spared and, because we have a good idea of what our neighbours are going through, we can encourage and support, just as was done for us in the past; in particular Antigua and Barbuda who opened their arms to us between 1995 and 1997 and have not stopped. We are proof that with God our neighbours can recover just as we recovered from Hugo.
“After Hugo in 1989 came the volcano in 1995, from which we are still trying to recover. Looking at what IRMA has done to Anguilla, Barbuda, BVI and Turks and Caicos and our Dutch and French neighbours we know that another hit by a major hurricane couldÂ have meant even more destruction and loss of life, property, population and economy. Therefore, our recent experience of being saved from Hurricane IRMA should not be taken lightly by the Government of Montserrat nor HMG, nor should we take comfort in this for even a short while. There are clearly very important lessons to be learnt from last weekâ€™s experience.
“One such lesson is that disaster preparedness and resilience are a necessity and a must.
“Critical in this regard are appropriate housing, adequate infrastructure, good communication and access. All of these and more, have been raised by our government and past governments repeatedly, and we now need to move forward decisively and in unity.
“We must, with urgency, see that our housing stock is brought up to hurricane-worthy standards. A number of the houses built by GoM and DfID in Lookout, Davy Hill and elsewhere are not safe and must be rebuilt. Priority must also be given to renovating other houses that are not hurricane-worthy, especially the temporary ones built by evacuees who have been waiting for 20 plus years for proper housing. Had we been struck by this dangerous hurricane IRMA large numbers of Nationals and Non Nationals could have been left homeless. Â Most would be forced to live in overcrowded shelters, back to where we began 22 years ago.
“We must quickly install an undersea fiber optic cable, and also complete the main road project with underground ducts that allow us to protect essential underground cables that carry electricity, cable, internet and telephone lines safe from storm and hurricane winds or flooding. Lack of communication is great impediment to disaster relief as has been the case in Montserrat and now in the other British Overseas Territories. In a Hurricane-proned zone, having underground and undersea fiber optic and power cables is a basic necessity.
Health, Education and Social Welfare
“As a result of the impending threats of hurricanes Irma and Jose we had to move our hospital from its â€œtemporaryâ€ location in a school building where it has rested for the past 20 plus years, to another school just newly built. This speaks loudly to the need for renewed commitment for a purpose built hospital, like the one lost to the volcano in 1997, which would withstand the force and increasing threats of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
“We clearly need to look at access generally and to urgently make possible flight capacity at our airport for medical evacuations.
“The urgency to bring relief and redevelopment to Anguilla, Barbuda, BVI and Turks and Caicos highlights the need to address, with some urgency, the 22-year-old relief and development needs of a Montserrat devastated by a volcano. Â
“May we continue to pray and give thanks to almighty God and may we be ever mindful of his constant care and faithfulness to us a people. May we also join together and do what we can to assist our neighbours and also call on HMG to do better in helping our British Overseas Territories and neighbors hit by IRMA; better than they have with us.
“I join those who prayed for Montserrat yesterday with the confidence that God of heaven will continue to bless us all richly in Jesus name.”