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Situation update on the Montserrat emergency

Publication date

The following update is a summary of known activities related to the Montserrat Volcanic Emergency.


1.1 Volcanic activity remained at a low level during the last week and was characterised by rockfalls into the Tar River Valley, coupled with a few volcano-tectonic earthquakes.

1.2 COSPEC measurements taken at sea from the police launch continue to show little change.

1.3 Dust levels measured on a daily basis remain low, due to recent heavy rains.

1.4 Meanwhile, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory has a new Chief Scientist and a new Deputy Chief Scientist.

1.5 Professor Steve Sparkes of Bristol University takes up the post as Chief once again, with Dr Sue Loughlin as his deputy.


2.1 International volcanologists and scientists monitoring the Soufriere Hills Volcano say they believe that the volcano has entered a quiet state with the likelihood of magmatic eruption in the next months down to about a 95% chance.

2.2 This view was presented by the scientists following a recent meeting in Montserrat.

2.3 Threats to areas north of the Belham Valley-Salem, Friths and Old Towne are now substantially reduced.

2.4 However, areas to the South of the Belham River Valley are vulnerable to serious volcanic hazards, including pyroclastic flows related to the collapse of the dome, mud flows and exposure to fine ash.

2.5 According to the assessment, further dome collapses are likely and could affect all flanks of the volcano.

2.6 The areas most likely to be affected in this regard are; the Tar River, Gages Valley and Plymouth areas, Galways and the northeast slopes.

2.7 The health risk analysis indicates that if magmatic activity does resume, the potential for harmful exposure to ash will be limited in size.

2.8 A public education programme on health risks of ash is being recommended to include guidance on protection measures during the clean-up.

2.9 A boundary line along the northern margin of the Belham Valley is being suggested as an appropriate geographic reference for the management of volcanic risks in the south of the island.


3.1 Members of the Volcanic Executive Group met recently to discuss the Scientific Review presented by International Volcanologists and Scientists.

3.2 Among decisions taken is that to withdraw the recommendation that residents of the Central Zone leave that area.

3.3 In addition, persons wishing to operate commercial enterprises within the Central Zone are now free to do so.

3.4 Clean-up operations which commenced two weeks ago in Friths, Salem, and Old Towne have been intensified .

3.5 The Volcanic Executive Group is seeking professional advice on whether the Zone is clean enough to satisfy the requirement that children and persons with respiratory problems will not be affected, once they return to the area.

3.6 Once reoccupation is possible, the border of the Exclusion Zone will be removed to the northern border of the Belham River Valley.

3.7 A public education programme on health measures for persons involved in cleaning houses and public areas will be undertaken.

3.8 Pamphlets for this exercise are now being prepared.


4.1 Two students from the Montserrat Secondary School will attend the 6th Regional Science Fair in Barbados, August 14-22.

4.2 They'll be accompanied by two teachers from the school.

4.3 The participation of the four member team is being made possible through the generosity of the Governor, His Excellency Tony Abbot, who contributed two air tickets for travel to Barbados.

4.4 Last week, the students presented their projects to the public at MSS Look Out.

4.5 One of the projects is on tile making using volcanic ash and the other on controlling the Pink Mealy Bug.

4.6 The Department for International Development (DFID) is donating free ferry travel to Antigua for the staff and students.


5.1 Members of the Citizens and Friends of Montserrat will meet in Antigua this Sunday to elect a new executive to run the organisation.

5.2 Vice-chair Christine Carty-Nibbs is now chairing the organisation until Sunday's elections.

5.3 The special meeting set for Sunday, August 16th 1998, will take place at the Methodist Hall in St Johns at 5.00 in the afternoon.


6.1 Help is underway for Montserrat's elderly, both at home and who have relocated to other Caribbean territories.

6.2 This is due largely to the efforts of the Department of International Development- DFID.

6.3 The programme of assistance is being co-ordinated in conjunction with the Caribbean Conference of Churches' Programme Office in Antigua.

6.4 Initially, it will involve welfare relief to the elderly, but will later expand to include projects to assist the beneficiaries.

6.5 The project will be staffed by a Regional Coordinator who has already been identified and a Social Worker.

6.6 The one year programme comes in light of the fact that the relocation grant given to Montserratian evacuees by the British Government has now come to an end.

6.7 Montserrat's elderly population has been particularly affected by the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, since many of them were abandoned by their families.


7.1 The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency-CDERA, is still accepting applications for counsellors and trainers under its CDB sponsored programme of support to Montserrat evacuees.

7.2 It's all part of efforts to establish a Counselling Service to persons who have relocated to Antigua and Barbuda and other neighbouring territories, due to the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano.

7.3 This area of the programme has several components, the training of 20 persons in basic counselling skills, and the establishment of a counselling service.

7.4 It's expected that the 20 persons trained will be in a position to sustain the counselling initiative, spearheaded by CDERA.

7.5 Persons with the prerequisite skills needed to obtain short-term consultancies as trainers and counsellors have until August 20th to apply to CDERA for consideration.

7.6 Persons interested in accessing the training in basic counselling skills can contact the National Office of Disaster Services in St Johns to register their interest in the programme.