Categorized | Local, News

Bringing 20 year volcanic crisis perspectives – Recapturing: Volcanic Explosions

The Montserrat Reporter – Friday, July 21, 1995:

When it began:

It was business as usual for most of the island this week, but the center of attraction was Soufriere Hills. It all started late Tuesday afternoon when residents were perplexed by a sound that turned out to be movement in the mountains. The reality was the volcano was acting-up and official attention focused on what are generally believed to be the most important Soufrieres, Lower Gages, Upper Gages and Galways. Disaster preparedness officials approved to pin point the activity around the Spring Ghut Soufriere, but mid-morning Wednesday the focus shifted to the far east and Tar River and then to Paradise where it was determined that most of the action was centered around a hitherto little known volcano.

Since then it has been confirmed that it was named after Professor Lang who discovered it in the early 1970’s, but apart from confirmation that it was the source of the explosions, little else has been said about it. The officials from the Seismic Unit were back in the Paradise area yesterday but up to late last night they were still to analyze their findings.

Last night the Chief Minister (Reuben T. Meade) said that it seems as though the activities had subsided, but he said “we must not forget to be cautious and the Emergency Operation Centre will remain on alert.”

At the same time he revealed that they were working on volcanic hazard mapping on the basis of the location of the activities in the Lang area, to determine if there is subsequent activity in that area which areas are most likely to be affected.

Governor Frank Savage and the Chief Minister in their nightly press briefing discounted suggestions that they were seeking to manage to information and the Governor responds to concerns that information was being disseminated on two fronts, explained that as governor he has additional external relations responsibilities “I have given briefing which the Chief Minister has not been privy too, but I can assure you the briefing I am giving to these expatriates is totally consistent to the briefings which are going out to everybody else”, he said.

The governor also confirmed that contingency plans are classified as secret. “We don’t Share those plans with the public because sometimes it does involve classified information,” he declared. However, some observers are concerned that so much is known about hurricane shelters while so little is apparently available when it relates to earthquake, volcano or any other natural or man-made disasters. But the Chief Minister said all of the systems had been tested and mobilized but based on advice from the seismologists they backed off and went back to a lower level of preparedness.

One expert suggested that the activity was a culmination of seismic activity which has been affecting the island since 1992. The situation has been monitored by the Seismic Research Unit in Trinidad, and according to the head of the Unit, their motive is to ‘try to reduce the effect in case of an eruption.’

“You cannot stop it and in most cases you can’t predict it,” he added. Dr. William Ambeh said that although there may be signs, they do not necessarily mean that there will be an eruption. “Based on experience and looking at examples from other parts of the world we eventually thaw some conclusions,” he said, Adding “but there are always uncertainties associated with conclusions that we draw” Up to late last night there was no definitive position on the activity which reached a height when what were reported as “volcanic explosions” threw molten material and ash up to 400 meters in the air.

But according to Chief Minister Meade the impression conveyed to him by seismic officials is that the ‘readings which they are taken at the Gages Soufriere are consistent with the readings taken six months ago.’

In the final analysis the Governor conceded that ‘we have a situation that we cannot quantify, it would be wrong to say that we can.’ He said it was a very committed effort by the government of Montserrat. “We are giving the people of Montserrat the very best assistance we can and I hope that they are reassured,” he added.

The Governor commended the officers of the Emergency Operating Centre for their services over the period. The Centre remained off limits and efforts by the press to obtain firsthand knowledge of the operations have so far been unsuccessful.

The last volcanic eruption here is believed to have occurred over 300 years ago, and the experts have suggested that, it was not recorded as a major phenomenon.

In more recent times, heavy seismic activity linked to the eight or nine soufrieres on the island occurred in the 1930’s and 1960’s.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

The Montserrat Reporter – Friday, July 21, 1995:

When it began:

It was business as usual for most of the island this week, but the center of attraction was Soufriere Hills. It all started late Tuesday afternoon when residents were perplexed by a sound that turned out to be movement in the mountains. The reality was the volcano was acting-up and official attention focused on what are generally believed to be the most important Soufrieres, Lower Gages, Upper Gages and Galways. Disaster preparedness officials approved to pin point the activity around the Spring Ghut Soufriere, but mid-morning Wednesday the focus shifted to the far east and Tar River and then to Paradise where it was determined that most of the action was centered around a hitherto little known volcano.

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Since then it has been confirmed that it was named after Professor Lang who discovered it in the early 1970’s, but apart from confirmation that it was the source of the explosions, little else has been said about it. The officials from the Seismic Unit were back in the Paradise area yesterday but up to late last night they were still to analyze their findings.

Last night the Chief Minister (Reuben T. Meade) said that it seems as though the activities had subsided, but he said “we must not forget to be cautious and the Emergency Operation Centre will remain on alert.”

At the same time he revealed that they were working on volcanic hazard mapping on the basis of the location of the activities in the Lang area, to determine if there is subsequent activity in that area which areas are most likely to be affected.

Governor Frank Savage and the Chief Minister in their nightly press briefing discounted suggestions that they were seeking to manage to information and the Governor responds to concerns that information was being disseminated on two fronts, explained that as governor he has additional external relations responsibilities “I have given briefing which the Chief Minister has not been privy too, but I can assure you the briefing I am giving to these expatriates is totally consistent to the briefings which are going out to everybody else”, he said.

The governor also confirmed that contingency plans are classified as secret. “We don’t Share those plans with the public because sometimes it does involve classified information,” he declared. However, some observers are concerned that so much is known about hurricane shelters while so little is apparently available when it relates to earthquake, volcano or any other natural or man-made disasters. But the Chief Minister said all of the systems had been tested and mobilized but based on advice from the seismologists they backed off and went back to a lower level of preparedness.

One expert suggested that the activity was a culmination of seismic activity which has been affecting the island since 1992. The situation has been monitored by the Seismic Research Unit in Trinidad, and according to the head of the Unit, their motive is to ‘try to reduce the effect in case of an eruption.’

“You cannot stop it and in most cases you can’t predict it,” he added. Dr. William Ambeh said that although there may be signs, they do not necessarily mean that there will be an eruption. “Based on experience and looking at examples from other parts of the world we eventually thaw some conclusions,” he said, Adding “but there are always uncertainties associated with conclusions that we draw” Up to late last night there was no definitive position on the activity which reached a height when what were reported as “volcanic explosions” threw molten material and ash up to 400 meters in the air.

But according to Chief Minister Meade the impression conveyed to him by seismic officials is that the ‘readings which they are taken at the Gages Soufriere are consistent with the readings taken six months ago.’

In the final analysis the Governor conceded that ‘we have a situation that we cannot quantify, it would be wrong to say that we can.’ He said it was a very committed effort by the government of Montserrat. “We are giving the people of Montserrat the very best assistance we can and I hope that they are reassured,” he added.

The Governor commended the officers of the Emergency Operating Centre for their services over the period. The Centre remained off limits and efforts by the press to obtain firsthand knowledge of the operations have so far been unsuccessful.

The last volcanic eruption here is believed to have occurred over 300 years ago, and the experts have suggested that, it was not recorded as a major phenomenon.

In more recent times, heavy seismic activity linked to the eight or nine soufrieres on the island occurred in the 1930’s and 1960’s.