Montserrat Today

For Thursday January 08, 1998
Presented by the Information and Education Unit
of Montserrat's Emergency Department


The activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano in the last 24 hours has continued in a similar pattern to that of the rest of the week. Yesterday and overnight there were hybrid, long period and volcano-tectonic earthquake signals and over 50 rockfall signals.

Most of the rockfalls were on the southwestern flank of the dome which continues to grow in the Galways sector. Many of the falls are filling up the depression left at the old Galway's Soufriere site by the Boxing Day collapse.

A single line GPS survey was undertaken yesterday between Harris Lookout and Hermitage. Results show a shortening of 1.1 centimetres since last month. This is a high rate of deformation when compared to last year and further surveys will be undertaken to ensure close monitoring.

MVO staff are currently installing new equipment in the field including blast meters to measure the force of pyroclastic flows, this to ensure continued monitoring of the volcano is at an optium level. Air quality in the northern & central zones continues to be very good.


Persons who have applied to enter the exclusion zone areas of Corkhill, Weekes and Richmond Hill to recover personal belongings will be allowed to enter over the next few days.

ZJB Radio have announced the names of persons who have previously applied for entry to meet at McChesneys today and tomorrow for restricted entry into the zone. Parties of up to ten persons will be allowed to enter under the supervision of scientific and police staff for very short periods of time.

The programme was introduced in early December and then had to be put on hold because of increased volcanic activity. There will be no entry to places beyond the specified areas.


Miss Elizabeth Piper Wade a volunteer with the local branch of the British Red Cross and a member of the local branch of Partners of the Americas leaves here early next week for a seminar in Brasil.

Miss Piper Wade is part of an ongoing Fellowship group in International Community Development organised by Partners of the Americas and this will be the second seminar she has attended.

It is expected that she will brief the Fellows group and Brasil based officials on the status of the Soufriere Hills Volcano.


In 1998, the following are the travel arrangements to / from Montserrat:

Ferry: Dept Montserrat for Antigua at 8 am daily (ex Sundays) Dept Antigua for Montserrat at 4 pm daily (ex Sundays)

Service by the 200+ seater Antilles Express, crossing time 55 minutes, fare EC$ 75 single. Check in time 1 hour before sailing, no need to book in advance except at peak times.

Helicopter: Dept Montserrat for Antigua at 8 am and 5 pm every day except Wednesday.

Dept Antigua for Montserrat at 7.30 am & 4.30 pm every day except Wednesday.

Seats are limited, very little luggage carrying capacity. All bookings (on stand-by basis only) to be made at MAS in Montserrat. Telephone 664 491 2533. Fare EC$ 89 single. Check in time one hour in advance.


(7) There is a risk of developing silicosis, a chronic lung disease, from long term exposure to the respirable volcanic ash as it contains 10 to 25% cristobalite, a form of crystalline silica. Communities close to the volcano have been exposed in the past to airborne ash concentrations above the equivalent industrial safety standards. As a precaution, in September 1997, official advice was given to relocate communities which experienced prolonged periods of heavy ashfalls and resuspension of ash. Exposure in the impacted communities has not yet been long enough to lead to the development of silicosis and it was considered very unlikely that anyone would be adversely affected if exposure to ash were then to cease. The north of the island usually has good air quality because the ash is dispersed there infrequently; in addition, the ash falling there has had a lower respirable component and a markedly lower cristobalite content. Air quality is being routinely monitored.

(8) In summary, certain implications of the preliminary Qualitative Risk Assessment are evident, despite the inherent uncertainties in the analysis. People currently residing in Salem are at moderate individual risk. The societal risk indicates, for example, that there is a higher than 1 in 100 risk of taking 10 or more fatalities in the next six months. Occupants in Woodlands are at a low individual risk, whilst those living north of Lawyer's Mountain are at minimal individual risk according to the CMO scale. Relocation of the population to northern Montserrat would reduce societal volcanic risk by a factor of 10 or more to 1 in 1000 (for 10 or more fatalities). Both individual and societal volcanic risk for habitation of just northern Montserrat over the next 6 months are probably less than, or no worse than, the risk from other major natural hazards in the region, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. (END)

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.