At least nine people were killed when Montserrat's rumbling volcano doused the island with ash on Wednesday. Scientists warned that another eruption could be imminent. It was the first fatal incident since the volcano burst to life two years ago. "The Government takes its responsibility for the people of Montserrat very seriously. My deepest sympathy goes out to those who have been bereaved by last Wednesday's eruption, and to the others who have suffered. We sincerely hope that those people who are still missing will be found safe and sound," junior foreign minister Baroness Symons said in a statement. She said she would be visiting the island, a British dependent territory. HMS Liverpool was due to arrive off Montserrat last night and the Black Rover tanker is due today to provide medical help and carry out search and rescue missions. Britain is to make available pounds 6.8m of aid to help the islanders.
George Foulkes, minister at the Department of International Development, said Britain had set up a task force of officials to consider the crisis "as a matter of the utmost urgency".
Governor Frank Savage has said there is no plan for an island-wide evacuation but at least 14 people are still missing and villages remain covered in ash and volcanic material.
Lady Symons said Britain was doing its utmost to help. "The Governor and his staff and the government and officials of Montserrat have been working around the clock."