BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- The 1970 MV Christena tragedy was a national disaster that touched and affected all segments of our society, and one that has defined the future of the Kittitian and Nevisian people, according to Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris.
Prime Minister Harris was addressing Friday’s special sitting of the Nevis Island Assembly held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the MV Christena Disaster.
“In the history of all great people and nations, there are defining moments that last throughout the ages,” said the Prime Minister. “Some are economic, some are political, some are natural, while others are social. Then there are those seemingly singular events that touch, affect and affect all segments of a society. The sinking of the MV Christena on August 1st, 1970, was such an event for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We are here 50 years later to recall this tragedy, and to remember the 200-plus souls that perished when Christena slipped below the waves. We come to celebrate the strength and resilience of the 91 survivors. It is testament to the transformative nature of the event on the Nation: on the people of Nevis and the people of St. Kitts.”
“The MV Christena Disaster is the single greatest catastrophe to have occurred in St. Kitts and Nevis. On August 1, 1970, the MV Christena sank in The Narrows between the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis after encountering difficulty. More than 300 persons were on board, including Nevisians, Kittitians and visitors to the Associated State of St Kitts and Nevis. Two hundred and thirty-three persons perished in the ordeal.
Prime Minister Harris used the occasion of Friday’s special commemorative sitting to also highlight the swift and dedicated service of several nationals, Dr. Kennedy Simmonds and Dr. Cuthbert Sebastian, both of whom treated the first survivors.
Today, Dr. the Right Excellent and Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Simmonds has risen to the rank of National Hero; while the late Sir Cuthbert Sebastian went on to serve as the second Governor General of an independent St. Kitts and Nevis.
“If national tragedy indeed tests the mettle of a people, the people of Nevis and St. Kitts demonstrated superhuman strength and resilience immediately following the disaster, and in the ensuing 50 years,” the prime minister added.
Also delivering remarks at the special sitting were Sir Kennedy Simmonds; the Honourable Vance Amory, former Premier of Nevis; and the Honourable Mark Brantley, current Premier of Nevis.
On August, 1, 2011, 41 years after the tragedy, the Christena Memorial was erected at the Charlestown waterfront, giving persons a central location to pay their respects to the lives lost during the disaster.