ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves said LIAT shareholders have banded together behind the company as the regional carrier begins to rebuild from the ashes.
“It is a terrible tragedy and it has set us back millions of dollars,” Dr Gonsalves said on OBSERVER AM yesterday. “The actual quantum of the loss has not been precisely calculated.”
However, he noted that there was a light at the end of the tunnel as pledges continue to filter in from regional shareholders, including a guarantee from Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit.
Although the Vincentian prime minister noted that Skeritt did divulge an amount Dominica will furnish, he was reluctant to publicly disclose a figure saying only, “It’s a sizeable sum of money.”
Dr Gonsalves, the Caricom head who has lead responsibility for civil aviation and regional transportation, did reveal that half of the money would be disbursed from the Dominican government next week.
According to the prime minister, St Lucia is “reflecting” on assisting financially.
The fire at LIAT’s hangar in Antigua was just one more blow to the regional airline, which has faced many challenges over the years.
Dr Gonsalves said the blaze occurred just as shareholders were beginning to discuss expanding the carrier.
He noted that the major shareholders, including Antigua & Barbuda, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Barbados, would attempt to meet before the end of June to discuss the direction LIAT will take in light of the current events.
Meanwhile, LIAT released a press statement Tuesday stating that law enforcement continues to investigate the matter; however, no cause has been determined thus far.
Initial data from regional and local adjusters shows “significant damage” and noted that assessments are continuing to determine the full extent of the losses.
LIAT has maintained normal operations throughout its network.
Fire engulfed the unoccupied LIAT hangar around 10 PM on Sunday.
Bystanders said that they heard two successive explosions as flames spread throughout the hangar and the Havilland Dash aircraft within.
It is estimated that is there was over EC $100 million in damages.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)