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Tristan da Cunha: Fires

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the recent fire at the fish-processing factory on Tristan da Cunha; what steps he has taken to relieve hardship and protect the islanders’ economy; and if he will make a statement. (187808)

I can confirm that a fire destroyed Tristan da Cunha’s fish-processing factory on 13 February 2008. The generators that provided the island's power were also destroyed. The cause of the fire has not been identified. Power is now being supplied from a back-up generator, until a new generator can be delivered to the island in March 2008. The hospital has 24 hour power.

Tristan da Cunha’s financial self-sufficiency depends on revenue from its fishing industry. Tristan’s fishing season is ending so the immediate impact on the island’s economy is minimal. But the island’s Administrator is working with Ovenstone, the company that runs the lobster fishing concession, supplies the island’s electricity and owns the factory, to minimise the economic impact of the fire. The main concern is to maintain the revenue that the industry generates for the island and to minimise potential loss of earnings for those employed in the sector. Ovenstone are preparing contingency plans for the next fishing season, which begins in July 2008. Ovenstone has insurance cover in the event of fire and is already making plans to replace the island’s power plant and build a new lobster-processing factory.

In addition, the Department for International Development has recently commissioned a review of options for Tristan to diversify its economy and increase its revenue.