Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 03:50 GMT
UK blamed over volcano deaths
The Soufriere Hills volcano erupted spectacularly in May 1997
The UK has been accused of contributing to the deaths of nine people when a volcano erupted on the Caribbean island of Montserrat in June 1997.
Those who died were among a number who stayed around it, fearing they would have nowhere else to go.
The verdict comes after a a two-month inquiry into the deaths of 19 people, which heard from 52 witnesses.
In a report endorsed by the inquest jury, the island's coroner Rhys Burriss called the UK's response to the crisis "unimaginative, grudging and tardy".
Warning that his conclusions "do not make comfortable reading for the British Government," Mr Buriss said land should have been bought on a safe section of the island to house farmers in the volcano area.
But a joint statement from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Office said this was not possible.
The statement said that those killed had long been living in the exclusion zone despite knowing it was unsafe. It added: "On May 23, the farmers were told to stop farming in the area nearest the volcano.
"It is inconceivable that they were not aware of the dangers."
But Mr Burris' latest report says there was not enough aid to rehouse hundreds made homeless by the volcano.
In a statement endorsed by the inquest jury, he appealed to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to provide further assistance.
He adds that the current situation could be best described by what he says is one of Mr Blair's favourite words - "pathetic".
Minister flies in
The DFID said £59m had been spent on Montserrat between July 1995 and last March, with a further £75m being spent on a three-year redevelopment plan between 1998 and 2001.
DFID minister George Foulkes is travelling to the island on Tuesday to sign a new agreement guaranteeing the £75m.
But Montserrat Chief Minister David Brandt says he will ask for a great deal more.
He called the report "a just conclusion" and hoped it would be "a warning to the British that their lack of action has cost lives".
The massive eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano on 25 June 1997, devastated seven villages with superheated rocks, ash and gases.
It followed nearly 400 years of inactivity - the island's population is now 4,300 - less than half what it was before the disaster.