More evacuations as Montserrat volcano threatens

OLVESTON, Montserrat, February 9, 2007 – With the dome of the Soufriere Hills volcano now larger than it has ever been since the new eruptions started in the 1990s, scientists are warning that sections could collapse threatening people now believed to be in the “safe zone”.

As a result, government has put residents on the border of the safe zone on alert, warning that they may have to be moved at a moment’s notice.

The top of the dome now  stands 1,065 meters above sea level and contains some 250 million cubic meters of material – that 10 million cubic meters more than the previous largest volume in 2003.

“Current estimates indicate that almost 20 million cubic meters of material could collapse into Tyers Ghaut and into the Belham Valley.  The Scientific Advisory Committee’s computer modeling has shown that further areas in the present safe zone could be impacted by pyroclastic flows and surges. Having considered this advice, the authorities have determined that further areas in the safe zone would need to be evacuated. Residents in the areas south of Bishop Lane, next to Alford Dyett’s house, and south of the roundabout at Old Towne are asked to be prepared to move at short notice. In the next few days these residents will be visited house to house by disaster officials,” Deputy Director of the Disaster Management Coordination Agency, James White Jr., said in a news release.

The computer modeling is showing that if dome growth continues in the north west direction further evacuations may become necessary.