2005-01-13 / Caribbean Corner

low risk of tsunami in caribbean region

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, (AP) – The Caribbean’s leading seismologist has said the risk of a tsunami hitting the region is ‘quite low’.

Dr. Richard Robertson, head of the UWI Seismic Unit in St Augustine, Trinidad told the Associated Press that the Seismic Unit has extensively in-vestigated the probability of the region being hit by a tsunami like the one which hit Asia on Boxing Day.

“We have looked at the tsunami threat in the region and have considered it a low hazard compared to the other hazards we have in the region,” he said.

He also rejected the theory put forward by several UK scientists last year that a tsunami could hit the Caribbean and the United States if the La Palma volcano in the Canary Islands were to collapse.

Dr. Robertson said in typical Canary Island landslides, chunks of land break off in bits, not in one dramatic plunge and while the prospect of a tidal wave is possible, it is very unlikely.

“Perhaps what is more likely is tsunamis being generated by earthquakes from the Azores (in the mid-Atlantic) but what we have discovered is that the ones that have been generated like that have not really generated a big wave in the Eastern Caribbean.

“All of this has led us to conclude that the tsunami hazard in the region is low compared to the other risks we have in the region,” Dr. Robertson said.

The Seismic Unit head said the Asian disaster has provoked a great deal of questions from the public and a number of government agencies through-out the region.

This prompted the Seismic Unit to embark on a public education program.

Governments from around the Carib-bean region have sent messages of condolence to the leaders of the affected areas of the Tsunami in Asia.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad will become the first countries to enter a Caribbean single market economy during a meeting in February in Guyana.

Leaders from the three countries will officially establish the single market Feb. 19, the same day the 15-member Caribbean Community will inaugurate its new headquarters in Guyana’s capital of Georgetown.

The three countries are the only Caribbean Community members who have passed the necessary laws to join the EU-style single market, which will allow duty-free trade between participating nations.

Other, smaller eastern Caribbean countries have agreed to join by end of 2005, while Haiti and Suriname are aiming to enter by 2008.

The single market also allows recognized professionals to work in participating countries without having to obtain work visas.

Caribbean leaders have discussed establishing a common currency but the idea has yet to take off.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) – Caribbean leaders agreed recently to give beleaguered LIAT airlines a US$19 million (Eastern Caribbean $50 million) grant to help it emerge from a financial crisis.

The prime ministers of Barbados, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Antigua met at a resort outside the Barbados capital of Bridgetown to discuss ways to help the cash-strapped Antigua-based airline.

The grant will come from a US$56 million (EC$150 million) Caribbean oil fund set up by Trinidad, said St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsal-ves. He said the 15-nation Caribbean Community would need to approve the grant, but he said he did not expect any difficulties.

Gonsalves did not specify how LIAT would use the funds. It was the third time in two years that the regional airline received bailout money.

In 2003, LIAT received bailout pack-age worth Eastern Caribbean ($25 million (US$9 million) from Antigua, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Vincent and Grenada. In July, the Barbados, St. Vin-cent, Trinidad and Antigua agreed on a (US$8 million (EC$21 million) package.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Out-going leader of the main opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) Edward Seaga, is participating in a series of events, as he prepares to leave the political landscape after more than four decades.

Seaga is expected to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, whom he had been seeking to replace as the leader of the country since 1993.

Last month, Seaga announced that he would step down as a Member of Parliament for the constituency of West Kingston to take up an appointment with the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The university will on 26 Jan., name Seaga a Distinguished Fellow in the School of Graduate studies in a formal declaration of the role he will play at the institution.

But, as he prepares to leave the political stage, his supporters have in-dicated they would be prepared to support Bruce Golding, who is also seeking to lead the party, as his replacement for the West Kingston consti-tuency.

Some residents paraded the streets of downtown Kingston in T-Shirts on Monday in support of Golding, who has not yet indicated an interest in representing the constituency.

While arguing that they were not staging any protest action, the residents said they had a duty to express publicly their choice to replace Seaga.

They said their decision to back Gold-ing was not intended as being disrespectful to Kingston’s Mayor, Desmond McKenzie, or attorney-at-law Tom Tavares-Finson, both of whom have made formal applications to represent the party in the seat.

Seaga is due to step down as a legislator before the end of the month and a by-election would be scheduled with-in three months.

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Classes resume Monday at St. George’s University, which was closed for a semester because of damage caused by Hurricane Ivan, officials said.

The campus has been used by relief agencies, volunteers and troops from the region during the cleanup operation, Chancellor Charles Modica said.

Hundreds of American medical and veterinary students study at the university and all were temporarily relocated to affiliated institutions in the United States.

Hurricane Ivan tore through the former British colony on Sept. 7, killing 39 and damaging or destroying 90 percent of buildings on the island of some 100,000 residents.

Grenada has struggled to rebuild and has received millions of dollars in foreign assistance.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – Italy has forgiven more than 90 percent of Antigua’s indebtedness to the European country, the government said.

The twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda owed Italy EC$500 million (US$185 million). The Italian government agreed to reduce the debt to less than EC$50 million ($US18.5 million), Finance Minister Error Cort said.

Antigua paid half of the outstanding amount on Dec. 24 after Cort negotiated the settlement in Rome.

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