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Evacuation and Volcano Hazards Assessment
Thursday, April 11, 1996

Government Information Service
Chief Minister's Office Fax:
P.O.Box 292
Plymouth, Montserrat
West Indies
Tel: (809) 491-2702/2711 Fax: -7229 Voice: -7227

For Immediate Release

The Government of Montserrat is not yet considering off-island evacuation of the some 10,000 people of this 39.5 square mile Caribbean island as volcanic activity continues.

The population continues to settle following the third major relocation exercise to the north since the volcano went into a spate of eruptive activity as of July 18, 1995. His Excellency, the Governor Frank Savage, has reiterated that there is no current intention to use an Antigua facility which remains as a precautionary contingency.

A 1987 Wadge and Isaac's Study/Report of the Soufriere Hills Volcano has been reviewed and validated by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. MVO's current hazard map indicates that north Montserrat would still be safe in a worst case scenario. The history of volcanology on Montserrat shows that even in the largest eruptions prior to 350 years ago, north Montserrat was left untouched. The Government and most of the island's population remain confident that north Montserrat is a safe area.

Head of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory's world class team of scientists, Dr. William Ambeh supports this view saying, "a complete off-island evacuation would not be necessary." According to Dr. Ambeh, "there is a tendency for people out there to worry more than the people in place who are actually seeing what is happening."

"I think a more representative showing of what is happening would tell people in neighboring islands what is happening."

"You may be getting a message that is slightly distorted and maybe sensationalised a little to catch the audience... that gets people worried."

"People come from outside and are actually surprised that people in Montserrat live their lives as normal."

The Chief Scientist of Montserrat Volcano Observatory said the recent occurrences have not narrowed the time within which a climactic eruption may occur, if at all.

"We still have a long way to go; maybe six months, maybe several years... I do not know. It may go towards a climax, it may not," says Dr. Ambeh.

Meanwhile, the volcano's testing continues to present multiple challenges for the 39.5 square mile Emerald Isle. Scientists today reported sustained "intense activity" with three to five earthquakes per minute within a one kilometer radius of the crater.

The capital, Plymouth and areas south and east remained evacuated as twenty-four hour monitoring of the volcano continues. Town-based businesses, office and government ministries have been relocated to the designated safe zone.

Among the government's biggest challenges is education, especially for students sitting O'levels (about 100) and A'levels (15) as of April 25, 1996. The Government has initiated dialogue with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and Cambridge of London for concessions for the affected students. The Government of Montserrat is hoping to avoid the postponement of secondary school exams which are a pre-requisite for entry into overseas colleges and/or universities.

Space constraints have forced all community buildings, churches and schools on the island's north into service as shelters for some thirteen hundred and eighty one (1,381) residents. Another three thousand (3,000 approx.) people are being accommodated in the homes of friends and relatives while others are renting accommodation.

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