BRADES, Montserrat, July 30, 2008 – Montserratians who were evacuated from the occupied safe zone on Monday night after the collapse of the Soufrière Hills Volcano’s dome are back in their homes after government gave the all clear on Tuesday.
According to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), it was around 11:27 pm that the collapse started on the west side of mountain, without any precursory activity, generating pyroclastic flows – fast-moving currents of hot gas and rock – that reached Plymouth and the sea and sent an ash column about 12 kilometres (40,000 feet) above sea level.
Soon afterwards, there were a few explosions as the dome continued to collapse, the MVO said. The incident showered areas in the south of the occupied safe zone with ash and small rocks, but there were no reports of any major damage.
By the next morning, calm had returned to the island.
“Because the activities were the first we had for over a year, because it was night time, the evacuation was merely a precautionary measure and to make sure that people were away from any known place that conceivably be in danger,” explained Director of the MVO, Rod Stewart.
There had been increased activity at the Soufrière Hills in recent days, but Stewart said the volcano had been quiet leading up to this latest incident.
Montserrat’s original capital, Plymouth, was destroyed by the first large eruption in 1995 that left more than half of the island uninhabitable and led to the first evacuation of southern Montserrat. Two years later, another eruption killed 19 people.