2 Montserrat volcano erupts, fires in former capital 12/08 (non gay story)
3 Montserrat: An Island Under Siege 12/08 (non gay story)
March 4, 2001
Britain to Scrap Anti-Gay Laws
by Marcelo Ballve
San Juan, Puerto Rico — Britain’s plan to scrap anti-gay laws in its five Caribbean territories (effective January 1, 2002) has islanders fuming about imperialism and immorality, but apparently resigned despite their anger and opposition. "There is nothing we can do about it," said Orlando Smith, a legislator in the British Virgin Islands.
London has tried for years to cajole the territories — Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos — into changing the anti-gay laws themselves. But facing opposition from residents of the islands, the British government has decided to go ahead and make the change itself, officials say. Roger Cousins, the deputy British governor in Anguilla, said he expects the British Parliament to change the territorial laws around the end of the year. And the British Broadcasting Corp. reported this week that London is preparing to make the move before Christmas. It quoted from a letter written by Overseas Territory Minister Patricia Scotland to a member of Parliament.
The laws in question make homosexual intercourse illegal, and the punishments vary from territory to territory. The laws are rarely enforced, though the Cayman Islands turned away a cruise liner chartered by gays last year. Britain’s government says the anti-gay laws violate international human rights agreements it has signed. It has the power to unilaterally revoke the statutes, but had avoided doing so in an effort to be diplomatic with its territories. "We simply can’t be seen to have territories with laws that violate these agreements," Cousins said.
Islanders, though, see the matter differently: Many here say homosexuality is immoral and goes against the grain of their culture and religions. Fearing a popular backlash, the territories’ governments have long resisted pressure to revoke the anti-gay statutes in their own legislatures. "Because of our deeply religious people, we cannot simply stand up and propose a law in the assembly to legalise homosexuality," Anguilla Chief Minister Osbourne Fleming said.
Politicians and religious leaders in the region said the disagreement reveals a widening cultural gulf between what they condemned as an increasingly atheist Britain and its faraway Caribbean territories populated mainly by people of African descent. Several former British colonies also have refused to change their statues outlawing homosexuality, including Jamaica, where gay couples have been turned away from some resorts. In the Bahamas, a cruise ship carrying lesbians was met by protesters waving signs that read, "No gay ships." Such incidents reveal how existing laws reflect popular opinion, said the Rev. Godfrey Meghoo of the Cayman Islands, whose 7,000-member United Church led a protest to turn away a charter ship carrying 1,000 gay men. "The (current) law represents what my parishioners believe," Meghoo said.
The territories continued to resist changing the laws even after Baroness Patricia Scotland, the under-secretary responsible for the Caribbean in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, warned leaders in September that full British citizenship rights repealed in 1981 would not be returned unless the territories decriminalised homosexuality. Montserrat’s agriculture minister, Brunel Meade, said Britain’s decision to unilaterally change the laws "indicates a high level of disrespect for our rights and culture. It’s the attitude typical of colonialism. "The territories could opt for independence, but they do not appear to consider it a serious option.
"Independence is something one must think about and not rush into," said Smith, whose islands have been British since 1666 and in 1967 were granted local autonomy.
December 3, 2008
Montserrat volcano erupts, fires in former capital (non gay background story)
San Juan, Puerto Rico – The volcano on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat has burst into action, hurling hot rocks that set buildings ablaze in the island’s abandoned capital. The director of the island’s volcano observatory says no one was injured or evacuated. Roderick Stewart says the Soufriere Hills volcano spewed material more than half a mile (1 kilometer) into the air.
He said Wednesday that buildings burned for several hours in Plymouth, the capital city that was abandoned when volcano erupted in 1997 and killed 19 people. Stewart says the explosion was smaller than when the volcano’s dome partially collapsed in late July and spewed ash some 40,000 feet (12 kilometers) into the air.
Montserrat: An Island Under Siege (non gay background story)
by Kathy Svitil
In the early morning hours of December 26, 1997, the residents of the island of Montserrat, a British colony in the Leeward Islands of the eastern Caribbean, were treated to a belated — and unwelcome — Christmas surprise. At about 3 a.m. that day — a British holiday known as Boxing Day — the island’s Soufriere Hills volcano violently exploded. The eruption of the volcano, located on the southern part of the island, caused the collapse of a lava dome that had been steadily building in the volcano’s crater for over two months. The collapse caused an avalanche of volcanic debris to descend on the surrounding villages, which, in turn, triggered a small tsunami in the waters off shore. An ash cloud, which reached some 47,000 feet into the air, temporarily darkened, and eventually blanketed, much of the 40-square-mile island.
Despite its destructiveness, the Boxing Day event — the world’s worst volcanic explosion in years — took no lives. That’s because, four months earlier, the southern two-thirds of the island had been declared off-limits, and more than half the island’s 11,000 residents evacuated, after earlier eruptions had rocked the colony. On June 25, 1997, after two years of precursory swelling and shaking, Soufriere Hills had uncorked a particularly damaging pyroclastic flow — a fiery cloud of ash, gas, and rock — that had killed at least ten residents and destroyed nine villages. And, in early August, another eruption had devastated the capital city of Plymouth.
Soufriere Hills has been relatively quiet in the months since the Boxing Day collapse, but experts at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory — which was established after the June 25 disaster — aren’t ready to say that the worst is over. In fact, a new dome of lava has been building since the end of 1997, and volcanologists suspect that another collapse is likely. In an evaluation of the volcanic risk, conducted at the end of April, researchers concluded that it was "more probable that there will be further significant eruptions of the volcano, than that the volcanic activity is now in a period of permanent decline. The threat from the major hazards of explosive activity and dome collapse remain," the report continued, and "even with no further eruptions the volcano will remain hazardous over the next six months to two years from volcanic mud flows, landslides triggered by non volcanic processes and volcanic dust in the southern parts of Montserrat."