Montserrat Volcano Shoots Ash Cloud 5 miles
The Soufriere Hills volcano, which has been erupting for the past 11
years, shot a cloud of ash more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) into the
sky on Monday, and authorities warned that more significant activity is
possible in coming days.
The blast, accompanied by increased
seismic rumbling, released gases and steam from inside a lava dome that
has grown rapidly over the last week, said Dr. Vicky Hards, director of
the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
"I think it was a warning call. ... of what it can do," Hards said.
explosion near sunrise also sent a flow of volcanic material cascading
down the volcano's northwest flank for 2 miles (3 kilometers) but did
not immediately threaten any of the British Caribbean island's 5,000
inhabitants, Hards said. Sirens alerted people to listen to the radio
Wind blowing from the east pushed the dark gray ash
over the "exclusion zone," a barren, uninhabited area extending from
the 3,000-foot (900-meter) high volcano across the southwest to the
coast. Southwest of the island is open water.
Scientists say the
dome could collapse and send blistering gas and debris down the slopes
of the volcano, potentially destroying homes in the low-lying Belham
Valley. The volcano coughs up ash and bursts its lava cap every few
The Soufriere Hills volcano sprang to life in 1995, and
more than half the territory's 12,000 inhabitants moved away. An
eruption in 1997 buried much of the south, including the capital of
Plymouth, and killed 19 people.