Saturday, July 02, 2005

First volcanic explosion in two years for Montserrat

Montserrat is becoming active again. Posted by Picasa

BRADES, Montserrat: On Tuesday, June 28, 2005, Montserrat’s Soufriére Hills Volcano produced its first explosive eruption, since the most powerful eruption recorded on July 13, 2003.

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) (left) provided the residents of Montserrat with regular and accurate updates. Their June 28, 2005, press release stated that a weak volcano tectonic earthquake, located deep beneath the surface, was the only warning received late on Monday night, June 27, 2005.

Seconds after the 1:30pm eruption, a super-heated ash cloud was seen more than 20,000 feet in the air moving in a westerly direction, directly impacting Old Towne, Isle Bay, Corkhill, St. Georges Hill and the Plymouth area with ash fall.

The press release further stated that this explosive eruption resulted in pyroclastic flows (pfs) to the sea in the Tar River and a flow one kilometer down Tyers Ghaut. Both of these areas are in the exclusion zone and had no direct impact on the residents of Montserrat.

Following an observation flight that same afternoon, MVO scientist determined, while the eruption was explosive in nature and led to pfs, there were no pfs down to Plymouth, the former capital, and points further south.

Ash samples were collected from the affected areas to determine whether or not the material was new material from within the depth of the volcano or older material from the dome, itself.

There are no restrictions on movement other than in the Exclusion Zone, as activity in the north remained relatively unaffected. Even though, residents inhabiting the northern safe portion of the island were able to witness the rare and stimulating visual sight as the ash plume advanced linearly towards the distant horizon. Seismic activity returned to background levels by mid afternoon.

Currently celebrating their 10-year anniversary of the volcanic eruption, some Montserratians said that the Soufriére Hills Volcano is just contributing a commemorative event of its own, while visitors raved at the visual wonder of it all.

However, in the recent Scientific Assessment Report, which is produced by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) whose objective is to assess the hazards and risks associated with the volcano, stated that risk is low, based on almost two years of very limited activity.

To date, there is no evidence of magmatic activity below the surface of the volcano. However, vigilant monitoring remains Montserrat’s secret to success in dealing with this natural hazard.

At the moment, the two main hazards identified in the SAC report were the collapse of remnants of the northwest buttress and mudflows in the Belham River Valley.

Having now endured ten years of intermittent volcanic eruptions, Montserrat’s residents say that they are completely aware that their level of safety has not been altered, and this explosive eruption was, more or less, nature’s own fireworks display.

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