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Mauritius (Cyclone Damage)

Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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asked the Minister of Overseas Development what information she has as to the extent of the cyclone damage in Mauritius; whether relief aid from Great Britain has been offered; and if she will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Overseas Development what are the Government's plans to get relief aid to Mauritius, following the recent cyclone there.


asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether aid has been requested and offered to Mauritius in connection with the recent cyclone disaster; and whether she will make a statement.

Reports that I have received show that extensive disruptions were caused to the island's water supplies, power and communications. Some damage was suffered by the sugar crop.

Personnel from the Royal Navy communications station gave immediate assistance, £10,000 has been donated to the local reconstruction fund, and my disaster unit dispatched medical supplies valued at £2,000. A Royal Navy frigate is now assisting further with relief work.

Since this is the most disastrous cyclone that has hit Mauritius since 1960 will the Minister send further financial aid, especially to help rebuild over 11,000 houses badly damaged or destroyed, and perhaps also some technical assistance to help to assess the damage and advise on the reconstruction which is now needed?

I am very anxious that we should do everything we can to help in this situation. It is relevant that within the next two or three weeks we shall be holding discussions with the Mauritions in preparation for a further aid programme to them. I hope very much to be able personally to explore what else we might be able to do within the aid programme in connection with the assistance there.

Is the damage such that the Mauritian Government will be unable to reach their sugar target, which was recently set in agreement with the United Kingdom?

I have no indication of that. The sugar harvest begins in July. I remember cutting the first cane in July 1974. It is a little too early for me to know what the effect is. I have no doubt that we shall receive reports in due course.

Are we to understand that we have not yet received a detailed assessment from the Government of Mauritius of the kind of help that Her Majesty's Government may be able to afford? Will the Minister accept that on both sides of the House there is anxiety to help this small but friendly Commonwealth country in its hour of need?

The immediate devastation has been dealt with and we have tried to help in whatever way we could. My judgment is that the Government of Mauritius are now assessing what longer-term help they will need to meet the consequences of that damage. We shall be ready to help as best we can. There is a moment, after the immediate effects of disaster, when it takes a little time to reassess what will be needed.

Can my right hon. Friend give any estimate of the damage done by this cyclone, compared to the last devastation 13 or 14 years ago? In answer to a question last week, I was told that we were giving £10,000, plus another £2,000, plus, of course, the help that the Navy was in the harbour to give. That does not seem too much to me. When we know more, I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will expect to see much more help given to this old ally, which many of us know so well.

I assure the House that my affections are quite as much with Mauritius as those of my hon. Friend and hon. Members opposite. Had we been asked to do more immediately, we would have done it. We must recognise that Mauritius has developed its own economy to the point at which it is more capable of dealing with its own situation than are some other disaster areas that we have known in recent months. However, when we discuss in the next few weeks how best we can help Mauritius in the next few years, there will be no lack of readiness to do so.