Government Information Service

Press Release - Current Events
1200H Monday 02 December 1996

Office of the Governor
Olveston, Montserrat
Tel. 809-491-2688/89
Fax. 809-491-4553

Scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory continue to monitor the situation at the Soufriere Hills volcano very closely during the current period of heightened anxiety. The island remains at Orange Alert. Most residents in the southern part of the island have been evacuated to the north since early April due to the threat of pryoclastic flows impacting upon the capital, Plymouth and surrounding areas which lie within a few kilometres of the volcano. Plans are in place to evacuate several thousand additional residents to the north of the island should activity escalate further. The north of the island is still regarded as a safe zone by scientists, and no off-island evacuation is anticipated even in the event of escalation in activity.

Heightened anxiety was caused during the week as signs of growing instability of one of the crater walls was noted. Scientists fear for a lateral explosion from the volcano should the wall undergo catastrophic collapse. Such an explosion could impact severely on the southwestern corner of the island. The likelihood of such an explosion occurring over the next few days is currently regarded as low.

Collapse of the southwestern crater wall could cause a landslide and subsequent tsunami (tidal wave) has indicated that only a massive collapse would enable a landslide to reach the sea and even then, the tidal wave would be only very small.

A delegation from Guadeloupe will be visiting Montserrat today and a second delegation from France on Wednesday to assist h further evaluation of the situation; Guadelope is the closest island to southern Montserrat and the only island likely to be by the current increase in activity.

Residents of Montserrat may be aware of stories in the press concerning the current volcanic situation. A revised volcanic risk map for the island was issued last week, and no changes to the status of the north of the island as a safe zone have been made. Generation of a small tidal wave from southwestern Montserrat would not affect the island itself as these waves travel outwards. However, ships have been warned to keep well clear of the southwestern coast of Montserrat as a precaution.

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