Montserrat Today

For Wednesday January 07, 1998
Presented by the Information and Education Unit
of Montserrat's Emergency Department


The activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano over the last 24 hours has remained at a similar level to that of earlier in the week. There has been a number of hybrid and long-period earthquakes and a large number of rockfalls.

The activity continues in a cyclic pattern with major activity every 6 to 8 hours. Yesterday there was a good deal of ash associated with these pulses of activity, but prevailing winds blew the ash out to sea. The quality of the air at all monitoring stations throughout the central and northern zones as measured yesterday was very good.

Low cloud cover once again obscured the dome but it is still thought to be growing quickly in the crater formed by the Boxing Day collapse.


The Montserrat Volcano Observatory has a new Chief Scientist. Mr Richie Robertson of the Seismic Research Unit in Trinidad assumed duties earlier today, he replaces Prof. Steve Sparks who has returned to Bristol University.

Dr Gill Norton continues as Deputy Chief Scientist.


The Social Survey carried out amongst the island's remaining population of 3400 has been completed.

The extensive survey carried out over the Christmas period will provide data for aid agencies and funding agencies in planning for the future development of Montserrat.

A report resulting from the Social Survey is expected to be published next month.


At a ceremony held late last week, several officers and members of the Royal Montserrat Defence Force (RMDF) retired from the force.

Messrs Lynch, Buffong, Dyer, Isaacs, Greer and Roach all officially retired on December 31st. The ceremony was a little subdued as one of the retirees died on the day of the ceremony.

Quartermaster Sgt Abraham Roach became ill early in the day and was flown to Antigua for treatment. He died in the Holberton Hospital later that same day. His funeral, a military one, will be held on Saturday afternoon January 10th at 3 pm at the St John's Anglican Church.


Next week will see a film crew in Montserrat for the making of the PBS Documentary "Scientific American Frontiers" hosted by film star Alan Alda.

The four man crew is filming the documentary, to be aired later this year, in a number of Caribbean countries. The Montserrat leg will focus on the monitoring of the Soufriere Hills Volcano.

SCIENTIFIC REPORT:- (continued from yesterday)

(5) In terms of societal risk, the expected number of deaths from volcanic events with probability exceedance levels of 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, and 1 in 10,000 (in six months) could be greater than or equal to 10, 120 and 200, respectively, with the present population distribution. The comparative figures if the whole population were residing in northern Montserrat are greater than or equal to 0, 1 and about 40 respectively.

(6) The MVO has learnt to anticipate signs of more elevated or threatening behaviour, although warnings of the onset of dangerous eruptions may be very short (days to only minutes) and cannot be guaranteed. Improvements in anticipating the volcano are offset by difficulties in sustaining the level of monitoring while the volcano is so active. Crisis fatigue in the population and familiarity with the volcano can reduce the response of the public to warnings and advice. Thus the best prospects for risk reduction involve governmental action on zoning and zone enforcement. (more tomorrow)


The Montserrat Volcano Observatory has warned shipping to keep clear of Montserrat's southern coastal waters. This follows the Boxing Day collapse of the dome into the sea and the resulting high tide. Water levels rose by about 1 metre in the vicinity.

Scientists estimated that flows reached the sea at speeds of about 100 kilometres an hour and went out to sea for a distance of up to 1 kilometre. Boats would not be able to outrun such flows warned MVO scientists who pointed out that ships in coastal waters could be experiencing flows in less than 3 minutes of any major dome collapse.

The MV Shamrock has been active in the week trying to clear small fishing boats from the area at the mouth of Whites River at O'Garro's. A fan has formed at this position.

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.