No plans to evacuate as Montserrat volcano spews ash
August 11, 1997
Web posted at: 10:21 p.m. EDT (0221 GMT)
OLVESTON, Montserrat (CNN) -- After a quiet weekend,
Montserrat's volcano exploded again Monday morning, emitting
a massive cloud of ash 10,000 feet high. It was just the
latest in nearly a week of eruptions from the Soufriere Hills
volcano, and a minor one at that.
Eruptions from the volcano have left a layer of ash about an
inch thick on nearly everything on the tiny Caribbean island.
Hot ash and debris blow out of the mouth of the volcano every
10 or 12 hours.
Despite the mess, there are no plans for total evacuation of
the island anytime soon, a government official said Monday.
As a safeguard against falling debris, authorities are
handing out plastic helmets. But the real danger is from the
rivers of red-hot rock and gas, called pyroclastic flows,
that can race down the slopes and devastate the surrounding
Jill Norton, deputy chief scientist at the Montserrat Volcano
Observatory, said before Monday's explosion that swarms of
underground earthquakes were pushing up new lava, indicating
more explosions were on the way.
Island's capital obliterated
The Soufriere Hills volcano had been dormant for almost four
centuries when it came back to life two years ago.
Authorities evacuated the southern half of the island, where
the danger is the greatest, because of the threat of
In June, pyroclastic flows swallowed four villages, killing
19 people. The island's capital, Plymouth, was obliterated
last week by red-hot lava flows.
Those who are left on the island are huddled in the so-called
"safe area" on the northern half of the 11-mile-long island.
Only about 5,000 residents remain on the island. Before the
volcano blew two years ago, there were 12,000 residents.
Authorities say people are leaving because of poor living
conditions, not because they fear the volcano. Thousands of
people were displaced in the evacuation, creating a housing
shortage, inadequate schools and hospitals, and too few jobs.
But those who remain are determined to stay and say they can
make Montserrat a vital place to live, even on half the
island. They said they will rebuild despite the continuing
danger and their personal discomfort, and they believe that
many who left will return.
Scientists say they expect more explosions, perhaps bigger
than anything that has occurred here so far. And, they say,
the volcano could remain active for years to come.
Correspondent Gary Strieker and Reuters contributed to this report.
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