Langs-Soufriere’s volcano dome collapses, Montserratians urged to evacuate

Scientists monitoring the Soufriere Hills Volcano reported that a “large pyroclastic flow” of hot rock, ash and gas had affected sections of the inhabited northern safe zone of the island and urged persons within those areas to evacuate immediately.

There has been a pretty large pyroclastic flow, probably a dome collapse. We don’t know the true size of the collapse at the moment, but we do know that pyroclastic flows have probably reached the sea,” said the director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) Dr. Paul Cole.

Montserrat_Soufriere_volcanoSpeaking on the state-owned Radio Montserrat, a few minutes after the incident, Cole urged persons in the Bellam Valley, Salem and Isle’s Bay region to evacuate to safer zones, adding that only essential service workers should travel towards the volcano site.

It is quite possible that the pyroclastic flows are continuing. So anybody who is in the vicinity…should proceed to higher ground,” he said, adding “we have advised people to evacuate.

Since the start of the year, the scientists have been reporting that the character of the lava dome has been changing quite rapidly and that although some of the dome is obscured by clouds, there is a clear, significant addition of lava on the northern side.

Initial estimates suggest that this is approximately 60 meters high and more than 100 meters wide,” the MVO said in a bulletin this week, adding that recent photographs “demonstrate that the size and shape of the lava dome can change rapidly and that a significant amount of lava has been added to the summit region of the northern part of the lava dome over the last three days.

Clearly such addition of lava increases the potential volume that can collapse to form pyroclastic flows on the northern flank, such as down Tyers Ghaut,” it warned.

Cole said it was for this reason that the authorities have maintained a “Level Four” alert in order to prevent persons from entering the danger zones associated with the volcano that roared back to life in 1995.

It is quite clear and I don’t think it needs spelling out to people what happened this afternoon. This is the reason why we have a level four and we cannot go down to a level two,” he said, noting that overnight there had been activity within the volcano.

“…it says something clearly that’s why we are on level four and exactly what can happen with this volcano with dome collapses. We have no precursory activity at all…any precursory signals whatsoever…and this is why we have been so cautious with the volcano so far”.

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