Montserrat Today

For Monday December 01, 1997
Presented by the Information and Education Unit
of Montserrat's Emergency Department


During the course of last week, the seismic activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano was at a low level until Thursday.

For most of the week there were small numbers of long period earthquakes, hybrid earthquakes, volcano tectonic earthquakes along with a reasonably large number of rockfalls in the Galways area.

On Thursday afternoon from 2.45 pm to 8 pm there was major pyroclastic flow activity which started with little or no signals. The flow material was made up of cold older dome material and reached almost to the sea at the White River at O'Garro's. Ash clouds from these flows went over Plymouth and were blown out to sea.

Ash monitoring continued last week and for all of the week the levels in the central and northern zones were at a very low level. Some GPS surveys were possible last week and these showed that the positions of Windy Hill and Whites have not changed but the Brodericks site height continues to increase at a slow rate.

Over the weekend, the MVO measured a large earthquake in South America close to the Peru - Bolivia border. Locally ash and steam venting have continued all weekend as well as rockfalls from the dome. In addition, there was a period of low level tremor and it is thought that the dome continues to grow even though visibility is poor.


The 1997 Hurricane season ended yesterday after one of the quietest seasons on record. There were only 7 storms recorded and of these just 3 became hurricane strength.

In preparation for the 1998 season, the following names will be allocated to storms if they arrise; Alex, Bonnie, Charley, Danielle, Earl, Frances, Georges, Hermaine,Ivan, Jeanne, Karl Lisa, Mitch, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginia and Walter.


At last weeks meeting of the Legislative Council, the Volcano Relief Fund Act was passed without opposition.

The fund will benefit people who lost their properties and their livelihood due to the destruction caused by the volcano in the unsafe zone.

The Volcano Relief Fund will be managed by a committee chaired by the Speaker of the Legislative Council, Dr Howard Fergus, and made up of the Minister of Education, Health and Community Services, a member of the opposition, the First Nominated Member, the Accountant General, a representative of the Trade Union Movement, and the Montserrat Christian Council and Chamber of Commerce will also be represented.

Under the law, the committee will be able to make payments to individuals in the form of grants or loans.


At the same meeting of the Legislative Council, the Golden Years Foundation Act was also passed into law.

The law establishes the Foundation as a charitable organisation. The Foundation was established by the Red Cross,the Old People's Welfare Association,the Lions and Rotary Clubs, the Montserrat Christian Council and the Montserrat Foundation.

The Foundation is currently constructing at Brades a two million dollar 50 bed home for the elderly and special needs persons in the community.

The building is being constructed by donations to the Foundation and anyone interested in donating can contact the Foundataion c/o the Montserrat Branch of the British Red Cross at telephone 664 491 2699.


The new scheme to gain entry to Richmond Hill, Foxes Bay, Delvins, Corkhill, Weekes, St Georges Hill, Woodsville, Belham, Isles bay Hill, Happy Hill, Old Towne, South Olveston, Lime Kiln Bay, Salem, Hope, Friths, and Glebe has been introduced and is working well. The Montserrat Government is providing the trucks and manpower for the scheme which residents can apply to.

The procedure is simple, a form (available at the Governor's Office, Police H.Q. in St Peters, and the Emergency Dept) is filled in and returned. There will be a half day allocated to each area whilst volcanic activity is low, during this period there will be controlled entry to retrieve goods and belongings that need taking out.

It is advised that entry is at the discretion of the MVO and they make the final decision if an area is safe to enter at a particular time.


The International Development Committee's report on the current situation in Montserrat has been published and contains a summary of 40 conclusions and recommendations.

Over the next few weeks, "Montserrat Today" will attempt to bring all 40 items as part of this newsletter.

  1. Current scientific assessment of the volcano's activity can be summarised as follows:-
    1. The risk of a Krakatoa-like eruption is virtually negilible (1 in 10,000)
    2. There is a risk of further pyroclastic flows, the most vulnerable area being the Belham River Valley (in the evacuated zone)
    3. There are possible explosive events falling short of a Krakatoa -like cataclysm which could nevertheless have catastrophic effects on such a small island. The probability of explosive events affecting the north and causing serious injury is between 1 in 30 and 1 in 300. This probability is significant enough to be taken into account in any planning of the future of the north of Montserrat.
    4. Ash falls in the centre and south of the island will continue posing a serious threat to health. Heavier and more sustained ash falls in the north and other Caribbean islands are possible and would result in an increased risk of silicosis.
    5. Volcanic activity will probably continue for at least a few more years.
    6. It will be years, perhaps decades, before the south of Montserrat is safe enough to be redeveloped and re-inhabited.
    7. Volcanology is an inexact science and the volcano in the Soufriere Hills is not typical of volcanoes previously studied, for instance in the escalation in the severity of its activity over time. Consideration of scientific advice must always bear this in mind.

  2. Contradictions in evidence occurred on a number of occasions during the course of this inquiry. The number of such disagreements is a cause for concern, suggesting a less than happy relationship between the U.K. Government and the Government of Montserrat. It is not the purpose of this Report to adjudicate on every such dispute and distribute blame. We are concerned with recommendations for the future. (To be continued)

More information tomorrow.................................

Presented by the Information & Education Unit, Emergency Dept
St Johns Village, Montserrat, Leeward Islands, West Indies.
Tel 664 491 7166, Fax 664 491 2474, E Mail:
Richard Aspin, Unit Co-ordinator.