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(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana)  A special Meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community will be held in St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday August 26.

The meeting called by CARICOM Chairman, Jamaica’s Prime Minister the Rt. Hon Percival Patterson, will have one substantive item on the agenda, the crisis situation in Montserrat. The CARICOM Member State, which is a British dependency, has been under grave threat for more than two years from sporadic eruptions of the Langs Soufriere volcano, which has already claimed 19 lives as well as disrupting the lives of the inhabitants.

More than half the population of 11,000 has left the island and the capital Plymouth has been abandoned as ravaged by pyroclastic flows from the volcano. The remaining residents are in the designated safe zone where temporary shelters have been established. Economic activity on the island has come to a virtual standstill.

CARICOM Member States, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency (CDERA) have been assisting Montserrat since the inception of the volcanic activity including the provision of personnel, equipment, materials and foodstuff. Following last July’s Conference of Heads of Government in Montego Bay, Jamaica, further pledges of aid were made by Member States based on a needs list submitted by Montserrat.

Prime Minister of Grenada, the Hon Dr Keith Mitchell visited Montserrat on behalf of the leaders immediately following the Montego Bay Conference. He was accompanied by the Prime Minister of St Kitts/Nevis, the Hon Dr Denzil Douglas.

Mr Patterson is expected to visit Montserrat on Monday August 25, the day before he presides over the Bureau Meeting. The Bureau consists of the Chairman, Mr Patterson, Dr Mitchell, Chief Minister of Montserrat, and the Secretary General of CARICOM, Mr Edwin Carrington. Host Prime Minister the Hon Lester Bird, immediate past chairman of CARICOM, will also participate in Tuesday’s meeting.

Mr Carrington said on Thursday that the problem should not be viewed as a Montserrat problem but a Community problem with primary consideration being given to providing the people of Montserrat with comfort and accommodation. This, he said, should not only be the responsibility of the nearby states but the whole Community of which Montserrat is an integral part being a member since 1974.

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