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Montserrat volcano may explode soon

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OLVESTON, Montserrat, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The Soufriere Hills volcano on the ravaged island of Montserrat threatens to explode again at any time, officials said on Monday.

Over the weekend the volcano showed that a significant explosion was now possible, and residents must stay away from so-called exclusion zones, the British Caribbean territory's Montserrat Volcano Observatory said.

"The MVO considers that the volcano is currently in an extremely dangerous state and more explosions or pyroclastic
flows could occur at any time,'' Richard Aspin, the observatory's information and education coordinator, said.

"It means there is a heightened alert and that the exclusion zones must remain empty,'' Aspin said.

The government will issue a televised warning on Monday to residents of the island.

"People do tend to drift back to their homes (in the zones). Every time the explosions stop or people can't feel them, they ignore them,'' he said.

Montserrat was home to about 11,000 year-round residents and many more tourists and part-time visitors before the Soufriere Hills volcano roared to life in July 1995 after centuries of dormancy.

Nineteen people were killed this June by an explosion that razed several villages.

Since then, two-thirds of the island has been evacuated, including the capital, Plymouth, with the remaining residents crowded into a small northern safety zone.

Much of the island has been turned into wasteland under deep piles of ash and pyroclastic flows of superheated rock, ash and gases that set villages and vegetation on fire and destroyed the island's only airport.

The MVO has said that "under no circumstances'' should anyone visit the exclusion zones, which include the Belham Valley.

11:48 PM

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