As 24-hour per day monitoring of the Soufriere Hills Volcano continues, Scientists of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory now report the following:
Acting on this advice and in pursuit of our continuing policy to take decisions relating to the volcano based on the scientific advice available to us, we come to you today (the Honourable Chief Minister and myself) with a further announcement. Again our guiding principal is to put life first and take all reasonable precaution to protect you, our people.
Yesterday evening, we attended a meeting of the scientist in which each one gave his view of the present status of the volcano and its probable potential hazard - that is to say, the extent of the danger it poses to life, vegetation and property on the island.
Without a single dissent, it was confirmed that the area stretching from Long Ground to Whites and Bethel was extremely dangerous and that on no account should anyone be allowed in there. This we are warned cannot be over-emphasized. Visits to other parts of the evacuated zone are almost equally dangerous and are becoming increasingly so. They should be kept to the absolute minimum and should in any case restricted to those that are "absolutely essential" to quote the actual words of the scientists.
It is evident that the volcano is in a new and very dangerous phase of its existence. We have recently had a series of explosive events with occasional and sometimes continual pyroclastic flows down the Tar River Valley attended at times by large ash clouds.
The volcano is now very active and can with little or no warning generate eruptive columns which will seriously affect not only the Long Ground-Whites district but other areas in the West and South.
As a result we have taken the decision to add Richmond Hill to the prohibited area. The presence of the Delta fuel station at the Richmond Hill exit and its own explosive potential was a further factor in the decision.
I am therefore asking that those persons now residing in Richmond Hill to vacate the area by 6:00 p.m. today. I count on your co-operation. I am aware that we have been giving short notices but we must remember that the volcano is monitored on a 24-hour basis and we respond readily to scientific advice as soon as we get it.
This extension of the evacuation zone is restricted to Richmond Hill, but we are monitoring the situation closely and if and when we are persuaded that any further move is necessary, we will not hesitate to come back to you.
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